A Covered Dish

By: Katie Condon

Instead of attending
The End of Semester Holiday Potluck,
where Kimberly will hold forth
about the unmatched dexterity
of her cat and Jim will call together
his congregation by the hors d’oeuvres
to virtue signal about virtue signaling,
I will stay at home and bleach my mustache
and drink a dirty gin martini and read
the scene in The Corrections where Chip
throws cocktail parties for the academic elite
and I will laugh at them as Franzen intended
and you will laugh at me for reading Franzen
because no one is supposed to like Franzen
except in secret and to bring up Franzen
in conversation would be social suicide
at The End of Semester Holiday Potluck
where now, I presume, Kevin is misquoting
Nietzsche to talk about his sex life and Camille,
who up until this point has said nothing,
says nothing still, raising an eyebrow
with indecipherable anger because Kevin
is just another self-absorbed academic
who got his degrees thanks to grade inflation
in the early 2000s and has made a career
out of complaints and well-timed jokes,
which is more than I can say for myself
whose career is made merely of words
strung together in a clever order, saying
nothing much other than I am happy
I am not at The End of Semester Holiday Potluck
but that if I were I would find a way
to kidnap the cat, poor thing, quarantined
in the bedroom, forced to listen to the muffled
noise of a whole people who forgot about
the night outside, its utter size.

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Poem in the Romantic Tradition by American Adult

By Katie Condon

Featured Art: Peach Bloom, by Alice Pike Barney

Every morning, I want sex.
Historically, men only give it to me
at night, after we’ve spent the better part

of the evening in the safety of the neon-bruised
dark of an American Sports Bar
that serves eighty kinds of mayonnaise.

In the morning, when I want sex,
I look out at the garden alive despite the frost.
Only gardens have a language

for light that spreads itself across the lawn
like marigolds or molten gold, like footage
of a wildfire with the sound off.

I drive down the highway and am
surrounded by language so American:

Gilded Dildos! Real Gold!
High Fashion Sweatpants Sold Here!

I try to pray, but can’t.
This is my sickness.
I am an American Adult.

Does light have sex
or is light sex?

is something I’d like to learn
while I’m still aboveground.

I hate our American language.
We call our most holy ceremony:
fuck bone nookie cram it in your ass!

Meanwhile, in silence, on fallen logs
the lichen makes ecstatic love to itself,
not to dawn’s wide-eyed dew.

Once upon a time I wanted
to be a viaduct when I grew up
or a lawn, well-kept and wantless.

I know now what Wordsworth couldn’t:

with my mouth on a house-sized
plastic road-side peach I chant,
What I desire this world cannot provide.

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By Kim Farrar

I don’t speak Cantonese
or Mandarin, and she spoke
little English, yet kindly explained each scroll
adorning the stairwell:
This one happiness. This fortune.
This family. Then she paused,
slightly panicked, and rushed
to her register for a stashed index card.
The creases were soft as fur
from many foldings, and printed
there in all-caps was BEFUDDLED.

This one befuddled.
Our heads cocked in doubt.
Did she mean it befuddled her
or the scroll signified befuddlement?
How had that peculiar word
landed here? What seas had it crossed,
what deserts, to be inked on a card
in the palm of her hand
in Flushing, New York?
Perhaps she copied it
from a battered phrase book,
or when she asked a bilingual friend
he said, I’m befuddled,
and she had him spell it out.

The scroll had six prawns—
four paddling in one direction,
with two turning left—

maybe it meant befuddled after all,
but it easily could have been
knowledge or friendship or destiny
as we searched each other’s eyes
for understanding. Then, in the clarity
of our human need, I said: I’ll take it.

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The Classical Archaeology of My Skeleton

By: Michael Derrick Hudson

You’ll trip over it whenever you stroll the Forum, teeth
and spalled vertebrae, my phalanges

used as pavers, liony yellow and crumbling in situ . . .

It’s so sad, this reduction to time’s kibble. Junked and
recycled, my gravel’s been scattered

citywide: wrists left to the lime-burners, molars sold
for scrap. My jawbone’s a goat corral

up to the hinges in fodder and filth. Of my ribcage
only a few splinters remain, still stuck

to the leathery black rind of Caesar’s heart. Tourists
shuffle through my pelvis, a grotto famed

for the cat-piss stench of centaurs, their pornographic

graffiti and the tarry stalagmites
of wine-dark scat. How their flinty hooves clattered

over the mosaics those nights when they’d gallop off

in pursuit of the virgins. Ah, the virgins! How easily they’d
slip our grasp, gathering up

lingerie and toothbrushes, blowing us kisses goodbye . . .

Scholars took years to identify my skull, the brainpan
fouled with mouse droppings, owl pellets

and busted amphorae, spooky winds shush-shushing

through the cracked dome. O lost luxury! Splendid baths
featuring salons, outrageous

cuisine and twenty-four-hour boutiques. Every niche

its own nude, every spigot its own flavor. Caesar whet
once his exquisite appetites here, a depilated tyrant

up to the jowls in his own broth. So much stale purpose, so
many dead language protocols. The tedium

of yesses and wants. So many same things over and over.

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On Finding Out My Genome Includes About Three Percent Neanderthal DNA

By Michael Derrick Hudson

It explains a lot. The unappeasable nostalgia at sundown. Those oof-oofs
when first I wake up. Or that faraway doggy look

I get when gazing at full moons. Every doggy thing, in fact,
about these eyes: heterochromia, astigmatism, and a remarkable capacity

for registering disappointment. Furry knuckles. Weak chin. A receding
brow too shaggy for such latitudes. A touch of depression and

my susceptibility to tragicomedy. Clownishly splayed
size twelves. Occipital bun. Knock-knees. Gracile shinbones (but robust

pelvic girdle). Hypercoagulation. My adhesive, prehensile lips puckering

around a single grape. A craving to know my whereabouts. A real talent
for sniffing out thunderstorms. How easy it is for me

to spook. My susceptibility to hoaxes, too-good-to-be-true scenarios, and

going-out-of-business sales. Grooveless canines. Skin tags. My tripwire
gag reflex. The prelapsarian nightmares. My prototype

conscience. My poor handwriting. A dread of abstractions. The flowers

I’ve sent to corpses. My shambling gait. Flight always
before fight. My shrugs. A limp handshake. My prophylactic revulsions.

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Sonnet with Acne and Hawk

By Robert Thomas

Wadsworth: the homeliest boy in homeroom.
My acne looked like the gentle foothills
of the Sierra next to his Rockies.
Kenneth, but kids (not me) called him the Wad.
Our class went on a field trip to the snow,
and I, the most romantic of the bunch,
wandered up the frozen river, giddy
screams of rowdy carousers soon eclipsed
by the softer scream of a distant hawk.
Ken came around a bend in the river,
hand in hand with Kate Dunn, her shirt open,
her breasts brazen in the pine-scented air.
No one spoke, but they had no fear, while I
was suddenly afraid of everything.

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Bad News, Baby, Good News, Dog.

By Britt McGillivray

this morning a meme queen reminds me we are living
                 in a hot catastrophe. i’d been dreaming

about an island lover a small puddle away,
                 then woken by propane tanks exploding fire

in next-door’s tent city. where i live, we were in crisis long before
                 this. indoors i receive 2D dispatches, pull myself through

the endless scroll: bad news, baby, good news, dog.
                 slow-build cries of freedom from the vaccinated crowd. a pomegranate,

split just so in a drippy palm. where i live, we’ve been eyes cast up
                 and chins tucked down. masked indifference to ‘save’ our ‘souls’.

this morning a meme queen reminds me: when the world ends
                 grab for whoever makes you happy. they took the quote from O’Hara

in times of crisis, yada yada. i de-seed a pulsing pomegranate.
                 what do you call an unending interruption? limbo,

bardo; a sad sabbatical, turned normal. i double-tap a crisis, offer an orange
                 heart to a public miscarriage, twenty more dollars to mutual aid.

look! more pals engaged, island lover blinking, hot sun hitting
                 face. more touch, deferred. i thumb a gender bomb i don’t believe in,

identity derailed by blast of parental well-meaning. my face burns pink.
                 my veins throb blue. i had decided who i love, this juice

drips from knee to tile floor, again and again, more stains to clean
                 i tried, meme queen, my decision just didn’t want me. bad news, baby.

where i live, we learn to look away. i close my eyes, see speckled
                 skin, a welcome face. pulp slipping through a ripe, plump

laugh. i backtrack through rupture, thick and brutal. then, somehow,
                 passed. a fruit plate, some apple stars. the future

halved, in separate palms. bleeding out. split, just so.
                 a meme queen reminds me: we still live in a hot catastrophe.

yes, but we’ve been dreaming
                 a way out

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By Max Bell

Featured Art: King Lake, California By Albert Bierstadt 

I hear every word. I know exactly where I am. Dr. Shelley, sitting across from me in her white lab coat in her air-conditioned Westwood office, has told me that I have cancer. The pain in my chest does not signal the cancer’s home but its most recent lodging. Each scan and test reveals that it is too late for any combination of surgery and chemotherapy. I should not have ignored the signs. I delayed it all for too long.

Dr. Shelley pauses after delivering the news, searching my face to deduce how soon she can relay more information, how quickly she should speak, how she should modulate her voice. No speed or timbre seems apt. I do not worry about how she will sound after the silence. Taking offense at anything in this moment, or in any other, suddenly seems a waste of valuable time.

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Deep Nostalgia

By Peter O’Donovan

“Deep Nostalgia™ is the magical MyHeritage feature
that allows you to see the people in old family photos
blink, move their heads, and smile . . . The 10 additional
drivers released today allow you to see your ancestors
express a wider spectrum of gestures and motions,
for example, smile wholeheartedly, blow a kiss,
nod approval, and more.”

Hard not to fall deep into the fancy,
drawn into the scene as the face unstills,
blinks a bit, looks around at its surroundings,
then smiles vaguely as though just awakened
while decades melt away by our devotion
to those sacred photos, those icons of Them
revived to succor, to help us through.

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The Cabbage

By Peter O’Donovan

after Jadeite Cabbage with Insects,
National Palace Museum, Taipei

Stumbling from the Qing exhibit
beauty-drunk on shape and glazes,
those flowing cerulean blues,
I heard a massing up the stairs,
a faint concentration calling
this pack of grannies rushing past,
with little charges almost electric,
an upward flood flowing to a plain
of people, pressing tour groups
enveloping some thing scarcely
visible, some dim verdant smudge.

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The Last Day of America

By Benjamin Grimes

Featured Art: Washington Crossing the Delaware By Emanuel Leutze

I wake up on the last day of America.
There are sirens but a long way off:
I cannot tell if America’s last ambulance
is on its way or has already packed
the last emergency of America into its hull.
In the yard I stand inside American sunlight.
On tiptoe I creep through American grass, I climb
the fence to see what the American sky is doing.
It is making the last cloud, a cloud the shape
of America but not the shape of America
from a map. It is the shape of America as a child
concentrating tight around a crayon might draw America
in the last American kindergarten class. I want
to take a picture to remember the shape, the cloud,
the last day of America but buzz buzz buzz: here comes
the last American phone call. It is an American robot,
calling to let me in on all the Last Day of America
Big Box Giveaways. I agree to the last follow-up
email survey of America to show my appreciation
for the robot’s wherewithal & tact. I click 10 & 10 & 9
& hope it adds up to a raise when the robot’s hauled in
for the last American performance review. Of the last
humiliations of America even robots will not be spared.
For breakfast I toast the last American Pop-Tart
& head out for the last American errands.
There are many like me, wandering the aisles
as the last ghosts of America, unsure what it is
we’re haunting. There are many like me, eager
for one last peek behind the American screen.
I bring home the last shovel of America
& set to digging the last American hole.
I make a list of my ideas, the last ideas of America,
& bury it as deep as I can dig.

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By Peter Maeck

Featured Art: The Wedding Party By Henri Rousseau

It was doggerel, the sappy little poem
or, more aptly put, the limerick
which we’d dashed off in seven
seconds flat: our way of saying—thanks?
Yes, thanks, why not, for all they do for us.
Without them we could not, we let them think, exist.
Reciting such godawful we won’t even call it
verse brought up the bile into our throat but they
like little half-wit schoolkids being read some
nursery rhyme from Mother Goose sat glassy-
eyed, their elbows on the banquet table,

Our betrothed and we repaired to
separate rooms that night, tradition
dictates that, and next day bright and early
we were standing face-to-face, you now
may kiss the Holy Book, I do, I do,
and all of that. Out there they sat,
some with, some without hats,
all haunch-to-haunch and sheening
in the monstrous August heat;
some had passed out.

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Black Site

By Peter Maeck

Featured Art: The Yellow Books By Vincent Van Gogh

The guards awakened us, we’d barely
gone to sleep, they strip-searched first
the women then the rest of us (trim off the
limp, discolored outer leaves of late-picked
artichokes) but Frank refused to shed his
boxer shorts, not smart, he paid the price
for his recalcitrance.


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By Peter Maeck

The year we were a State Farm agent
we would rather now forget.
We hated scaring folks: Imagine that
your house incinerates or God forbid
you’re stricken with a fatal this or that
(it could be symptomless) or there’s
a workplace accident, you’re dis-
membered then what happens to
your spouse and kids? They’re up
the so-called creek.
Adrift, we turned to animal husbandry but we wept
to slaughter pigs; we planted beets but with the drought
we just gave up the naïve hope of ever making
gentleman farming work. We entered politics
sometime after that, ran for a City Council seat,
lost in a rout. We drowned ourself in drink.
Our spouse absconded with Meg and Mike
the twins and sued us for divorce.
Depressed, to say the least, we drove
out on a ferry boat, the one that goes from Boxport
out to Riley’s Point. We gunned it, shot straight out
the other end, right through the safety
chain, think Thelma and Louise. Our canyon, though, was
harbor water, sludgy, twelve feet deep. We didn’t die, they
pulled us out. The Camry was a total loss,
of course, the motor’s scrap once salt gets in it.
Stupid the attempt to drown ourself
in shallow water, better odds
out farther in the rip.
The blues run there, we caught one
at the age of six, in our father’s
Boston Whaler, never had a
better day than that one since.
One day a life can make.

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A View of the World

By Linda K. Sienkiewicz

Featured Art: Woman at a Window By Casper David Friedrich

I believed I could communicate
with the female mink on my great uncle’s farm
until I put my thumb up to the cage
and she sliced the tip as keenly as a razor.

I believed Pippi Longstocking
could save the world.

I believed I could save myself
from the men my mother warned me about
the ones who might come up through the woods
from the far road by feeding them mud
cakes made with millipedes and spiders.

I believed I could live alone in a boxcar
with a can opener and blanket
and care for six orphans, too.

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Snapchat at the Magical Arctic Puffin Exhibit

By Shelly Stewart Cato

Maybe he has magic to keep himself alive
                  forever, says my little boy,

palms parallel to the floor,
                  elbows pulled in like a chubby T-Rex.

He grins and flaps and smoochy-lips
                  himself in the aqua glass.

A murder of teenagers captures it all.

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The Dog Run

By Anne Cooperstone

The old adage that dogs look like their owners was not true at our dog run.
The one of us with blond hair and collagen-plumped lips had a German shep –
herd. Another of us was a Persian Jew with a golden retriever. We were bulky
with skinny vizslas, hard-looking punks with long-haired dachshunds. One of
us was a young man with perfectly drawn eyebrows whose poodle had drawn
stares ever since the day it played keep-away with a dead bird. Some of us were
thirty-somethings clad in workout wear who paced the perimeter of the park,
throwing tennis balls with plastic contraptions so we did not have to touch the
slobbery felt. We had French bulldogs, five of them in matching harnesses. We
had a corgi named Joy who was known to snap at dogs twice her size.

We did not raise our dogs in our own image. If we had wanted carbon copies,
we would have had more kids. But we had dogs.

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Graduation Day

By Ian Christopher Hooper

Featured Art: Riders through the Canyon By Frank Nelson Wilcox

There was a time when
I measured the distance from June to August
in the rise & fall of empires, when
each summer night reached

from Jerusalem to Karakoram, when
the abandoned apple trees behind our house
became primeval forest, wild except for the shadow of rows, & as a child I dug

holes in the garden, found
buried treasure,

dredged the creek for the rusted shards of Excalibur,
wandered the streets with Sara & Michael
from the first hiss of the sprinklers
until long after the street lights winked on.

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A Flaw in the Mirror

By Ted Kooser

It was at eye-level, a small swirl in the glass.
I had to hold my head just so to see it.
Something had surfaced and seen me there,
and, with a flourish, turned back, leaving
the glare only slightly disturbed. Could it
have been someone I’d hurt years ago, or
a secret I’d kept so long that it had all but
disappeared, settling fathoms deep to lie
in the darkness, waiting, for fifty or sixty,
perhaps even seventy years? It seemed
there was something the flaw sensed in me
that had at last awakened it, and it had
risen up through and into my reflection.
It flashed, just once, and then it sank away.

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A Stained Glass Window

By Ted Kooser

We can imagine this saint as if she were
seen from the side, a shimmering film

of iridescence, like that of a bubble, those
brilliant colors not actually there,

nor she with her golden pan-pipes, robe
like a waterfall, not cast in the glass itself,

but as if reflected from another window,
distant, two thousand years in the past,

yet at the speed of light across a shadowy
sanctuary, empty but for you and I,

the cold pews, rank upon rank of them,
turning their backs to us, facing all that’s

ahead, and the patron saint of music, not
yet ready to put her lips to the notes,

to play against this silence, St. Cecilia,
who sang out to God as she died.

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By Ted Kooser

Somewhere along the Front Range of the Rockies
someone who loved you poured you into the wind—
the you I remember, your hair up in pink rollers—

and then, without thinking, turned the carton
bottom-side up and gave it a pat, the dust of you
gone with your baby-talk lisp, the flat sound

of that news taking three years to reach me, over
five hundred miles of Nebraska, word of the you
I remember, on pointe, in scuffed ballet toe shoes

in that duct-taped, cardboard-walled “studio”
I fixed up for you in the stuffy hot attic above your
apartment, sweat on the hard forehead I kissed.

Not like you, the news of your death taking so long
to arrive, you always so quick and light, flouncy,
running away from me, over and over, then gone.

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By Ted Kooser

One of my oldest friends, widowed a year,
drifts on, riding low in the water, north
into his eightieth year, his rudder
broken away, the stillness of ice fields
ahead, and little aboard but Hershey bars
and Diet Pepsi, as he floats in one of two
twin La-Z-Boys, his late wife’s dachshund
asleep on his lap, a big flat-screen TV like
a billowing sail, pulling them forward
into the years, his choice of the two
recliners now his—if he wanted to choose,
which he doesn’t—hers still with the last
of her flotsam around it, the Christmas
decorations she’d hoped to finish in time,
her hot-glue gun still at the ready,
the empty cardboard toilet paper tubes,
the red and white construction paper,
some of the red already glued in cones—
unfinished Santa hats—and cotton wads
to pinch apart for making Santa’s beard.

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Picking Up After the Dead

By Ted Kooser

This brother and sister have come
hundreds of miles to sort through
the mold and clutter left in the wake
of their maiden aunt, who as the future
closed about her assembled a proof
of the past, heaped in the rooms
she’d played in as a child, her toys,
her picture books, piles of newspapers
nibbled by mice, and over the years
all of the black-and-white issues
of Life, though life for her was there
without having to pay for it, in color:
the bone-yellow ribs of plaster lath
where the ceilings had fallen, some
of the crumbled plaster on her bed,
and in the parlor an upright piano,
dark orange-peel finish clouded
with mildew and half of its keys
stuck down as if a tremendous chord
had been hammered into the silence
to fade only a moment before.

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By Faith Shearin

The last day of my old life, the one in which I knew my own identity, was Halloween 2018. I was out walking our dog, Wookiee, a small, flat-faced shih tzu with an underbite, through the streets of our Massachusetts neighborhood, when I felt the presence of my husband, Tom, though he was away, on a business trip in Colorado. It was evening and I was flanked by children wearing masks, capes, and wings, all of them carrying paper sacks of candy. I paused beneath a maple tree decorated with cloth ghosts, near a lawn littered with fake tombstones, and the dog sniffed the air where my husband’s apparition formed. I saw Tom materialize for a moment and he was young again: slender and dark, his hair a mass of black curls; he was opening the window of his dorm room at Princeton; I felt as if he was trying to show me something; I was aware of a rush of velvet air and the full intensity of his love before he vanished again, into the blowing leaves, and pumpkins, and the sounds of children knocking on doors. I was expecting him to fly home in a few hours and thought perhaps he had fallen asleep on a plane and begun dreaming of me; he sometimes came to me in dreams. But when I checked my phone I found no text; instead, there were a series of phone calls from a number I didn’t recognize, which turned out to be a hospital in Colorado, the last from a chaplain who said: your husband has had a heart attack and is being prepared for emergency surgery. I do not know if Tom was awake or under anesthesia when his ghost found me; I don’t know if he was fully alive or if his spirit was already seeping away. All night his Australian colleagues held vigil in the hospital, sending texts while fashioning boomerangs from coffee stirrers. By the following day, Tom’s sisters and mother and I converged in a waiting room, along with his friend Bob, who had flown home to Virginia from the Denver conference, then back again, when he heard Tom was in surgery.

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by: Allison Funk

Last night I heard the barred owls calling 
        from the white pine that brushes

our windowpane, the muffling snow
        falling all around. Where had they been hiding?

For months, silence. Or, perhaps,
        lately distracted by my own weather,

I’d stopped listening,
        having nearly forgotten the nights

we’d wake up together
        to their plaintive cries and caterwauling,

their comic mating of cackles, hoots, 
        and caws. How much

had they been drinking?
        you mused once, imagining a party

of ornithologists in a bar
        slurring the owls’ Who looks for you?

Yoo-hoo, you’d murmur       
        before we joined the full-throated parliament

in their ecstatic racket.
        Now, into the space that echoes

between us, I’m calling,
        though you’re out of hearing.

I’m telling you who still looks for you
        in the snow that keeps falling.

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What Else the Grapefruit Said

By Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle

At the Primrose Gardens’ group home,
the guys share smokes around the picnic table;
the house itself exhales a heavy Lysoled and linty air.
Confined to an asphalt patch,
under the 24/7 eye of Neighborhood Watch
they slouch under overrated stars.

They have time: no AA tonight.
Under the driveway spotlight,
they lean, listening for the fenced dog’s advice.
Brandon swears, “Horror movies put me here,
that and the drugs.”

Back empty-handed from a ShopRite run, Little James explains,
“The grapefruits were talking.”
Grocery voices again,
“They say, ‘Don’t buy me.’”
Never mind the ice pick in somebody’s eye
that sent him up.

Inside, the house hums clean
as the dryers tumble on cycle “fluff.”
They’re like seven Snow Whites,
worn out after another day
of scrubbing, mopping, vacuuming,
as if conscience could be cleared by a good once-over,
and a well-made bed.

Conned on all counts, I’m here to see my son,
—the witch’s apple of my eye—
but they all greet, “Hiya Mom.”
Big Eric wails, “When you gonna bake that lemon meringue?”
I lie easily,
promising, “Next time, next time.”

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Chain of Custody

By Sharon D. Kennedy-Nolle

Item Number EV-69-16 Case Number, CE-1896-16/SJS 64544:
Date, Time, Place of Recovery (12/29/16 @16:30 hours, Shaft 18 by boat launch),
Recovered By Det. Yemena Cortez. I must sign.
I must sign again after the Date, Time, Place of Receival,
From Locker 9 To Det. Carlson, Date (7/10/17).
An invoice, the detective in sunglasses called it.
It came envelope tidy,
and in that, officially sealed,
the last baggy
so hard
to scissor open; but when done,
it breathes the aftermath of you,
one month under, to the day.
(What strange moss-made creature
might you have become
if you had stayed at the bottom?)
Orange dust pimples the wallet,
faintly sprinkling my hands, my lap, like fairy spice.
Awful anointing, odd sachet,
all day I wear the smell of your death.
Must on my hands, old mold sweet,
must on my hand, lips.

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By Hannah Sullivan Brown

My mother calls to tell me she can no longer tell
the difference between memory and dream. As
she talks I walk the backyard—all day

I have watched a fat bee plunder
the same plush marigold, slowly
sinking his velvet face into the pollen, 
raising it up again. My mother has been

dreaming of her dead father, has to ask 
her sister what is real. Next to the bee
the eggplant vine has been fooled
into late flowering, lavender blossoms 
swirled with white. In the warm
slow light I want to say to my mother,

who is still talking, with me it’s memory
and desire, losses that cling to branches
like glossy black clusters of chokeberries
long after the leaves have blown away.

Years ago a friend and I fell out—he insisted
on being in love with me, I couldn’t lie
that I liked his poetry—though I still 
remember the line apricot skin, flush
in the morning.

I wish I had an apricot or an evergreen,
something sweet, cleansing. I like
to walk barefoot on dewy grass to
greet the day, though I’ve never 
actually done that. I’ve done it
in my mind. Does that count?

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Not Seeing Lorca’s House

By Hannah Sullivan Brown

One hundred and five degrees and everyone wants a taxi. I wait too long at the stand in Plaza Nueva. The driver gets a call from his wife. He tells her he will just finish this ride. He turns to me, ¿Entiendes español? His family adopted a rescue dog that sleeps on a bed next to his daughter. The dog was abused and has seizures during which he shakes and froths at the mouth. When a seizure ends, he is disoriented, unable to walk straight. Slowly, the dog begins to smell again and goes from family member to family member, remembering them. This morning the seizures are worse than they’ve ever been, coming one after another. The driver’s wife has tried everything and doesn’t know what to do. The dog is stumbling around the house—delirious and frightened. I never understood, the driver says, eyes meeting mine in the rearview mirror, why people were so obsessed with their dogs, but now—I don’t know what we’re going to do. We have to let the dog go and my wife, my daughter . . . he shakes his head. Getting out of the car, I tell him how sorry I am and wish the best for his family and the dog. He speeds away.

As I enter the museum, the man at the front desk points a thick finger at an oversized wall clock—I am four minutes late for the last tour of the day and one may enter only with a guided tour. I ask if there is a group inside and if I may join late. He responds that yes, there is a group but no, I may not join. Hay un horario, y hay que respectarlo. There is a schedule, and we must respect it. We argue. I explain how I’ve tried to visit several times, but the kids, the heat, the taxi, my last day. He repeats, Hay un horario, y hay que respectarlo. When it is clear that I will not be allowed to enter, I sit on a bench in the orchard and study the parched black apple trees. The man and other workers leave the house and lock it behind them. There was no group; they wanted to leave. Inside the house where Lorca spent the last summers of his life, his large writing desk remains, his drawings, his piano—positioned as it was when he lived there. I have read that it’s very moving. I have read Toda la noche en el huerto, / Mis ojos, como dos perros. All night in the orchard, my eyes, like two dogs.

By now the taxi driver must be home. He scoops up the dog, wife and daughter leaning into each other. The driver’s wife will lay a blanket from their daughter’s bed across the backseat and he will set the dog on it, shushing him calm. The dog’s heart races, white foam around his mouth. Soon the dog will be in the orchard. He will see Lorca there and Lorca will take the dog’s heavy, healthy head in his hands and off they’ll go to sit in a plaza, near a fountain, eating oranges, trying to breathe in the jasmine so deeply that it will be impossible to forget the sweetness, the brevity.

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By A.J. Rodriguez

Featured Art: Interiors with View of Buildings by Richard Diebenkorn

“Blood and gore on channel four.” That’s what people said whenever QBZ-4, the station me and Paintbrush Martinez pulled the graveyard at, came up in drunk or sober conversations. It wasn’t really a joke, but we said it jokingly. It was just part of our language—like singing a nursery rhyme or dappin-up your homie at some backyard pachanga. We recited it like scripture, hummed it before sitting down on our sofa pews, before hitting that prayer-book remote, before entering the church of our living rooms or the confession booths of our sorry-ass bars.

“Blood and gore on channel four” was smeared on the streets, projected onto the heavens, and hardwired into the body of everyone in Albuquerque from the picket-fence, northeast-side gabacho, to the straight-out-the-Pueblo Indio, to la chola chingona hustling South Valley. But on the lips of those living lives flooded with fortune and security—culeros on that white-collar, whiter skin shit—it was a punchline, something to say after a sneeze. Lodged in the throats of los demás, all those scared-ass vatos and their families, it was a Hail Mary, a bulletproof vest, a way to savor your breath, remember your heartbeat.

Like them, I grew up on “blood and gore on channel four,” rehearsed the line year after year as I watched folks from the varrio become actors, turn familiar places into TV crime scenes where they played out the role of “meth user,” “gang member,” “tragic shooting victim,” or “drunk driver.” But I never understood it, the reality within the words, the physicality behind the images—not when I ditched home to study film on some diversity-ass scholarship—not while working nights at the Q with Paintbrush—not till the shit with Graci, Tío Albert’s ruca, hit the fan.

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By Amy M. Alvarez

My father called me chiba, mi primer hijo
tomboy, my first son—knuckling the crown
of my head. He said I sat too mannish

my knees splayed, forearms on thighs, 
watching the Knicks on the couch
in his apartment. When I began my model

plane phase, he came to my mother’s house
to help me build an A-10 bomber—each piece
primordial green. We labored over landing gear,
inhaled foul rubber cement.

He mentioned boyhood dreams of building planes, 
watching the work of his hands soar instead of clunking
to life like the radiators and refrigerators he worked on.

I told him I was proud of how he fixed what was broken.
My father half-smiled before burying himself in silence
and instructions. We added decals, painted a shark- 
toothed mouth on the plane’s snubbed nose.

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In Jezero Crater

By Kate Gaskin

Whatever was there has gone
         to three and a half billion years
                        of dust. On Mars

a rover picks up a rock
         and turns it over
                  in a river delta webbed

with dried arteries cauterized
         by the sun. Daughter,
                    who lived for only an hour,

I too search for you
         in the most barren places,
                  a vein that rolls before

a needle, a dawn that breaks
         dim and drawn. I wish for you
                  an emerald canopy,

sapphire water, a world
         where belief is a fact
                  that can be held

in my palm like a stone.
         Here on Earth, you disappear
                  starash, sunsoot, moonglow

while somewhere above
         in the red star of another planet,
                  a robot measures

ancient silt into a vial
         for human hands to touch
                  with wonder. What do I do now

                  with all this love?

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Lightning Dragons

By Kate Gaskin

It’s a terrible thing to say,
         but imagining my son’s death
                  comes as naturally to me

as watching a cat trot off
         with a bird clenched in its jaws.
                  Today, there is a crushed

cedar waxwing in the street,
         its golden tail feathers splayed,
                  the red cherry of its chest

popped open like a mouth.
         I found it on my run and thought
                  how impossible it is

to be so small, so easily undone.
         This boy of mine runs
                  away from me into busy streets.

A museum’s noisy crowd
         swallows him whole. At school
                  he cannot sit still or listen.

Once, his teacher said he threatened
         another child with the sharp end
                  of a pencil. I did not

believe her, but what I believe
         will not keep him safe
                  from how others

inevitably perceive him,
         and so I imagine
                  what it would be like to lose him

as he tells me about dragons,
         how there are four types:
                  sun dragons, moon dragons,

rain dragons, and, his favorite,
         lightning dragons that hatch
                  from eggs that erupt

in shocks of electromagnetic
         radiation. See them flying now?
                  He points to the night sky,

its feathery moon and stars
         like puncture wounds, while above us
                  heat lightning unsettles

                                 the dark.

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By Jessica Poli

Yesterday I saw a tree the color
of the sky it stood against
and thought of Rothenberg’s painting 
of the translucent horse
barely outlined in a pink haze—the same color 
that lit the glass buildings some mornings

in Pittsburgh, where I studied photography 
for one misplaced year. There,
in a darkroom, a girl held my hips 
while I mixed chemicals that smelled 
like sweat licked off of skin,
and the shape of her hands
felt like shadows touching me. I told her

about the horse that lived
at the end of the road where I grew up,
how I fed it handfuls of grass
and dandelions from across 
the electric fence. That horse

was a kind of shadow too, forgotten 
by the neighbor who asked for it
for her birthday
and then never rode it. Rothenberg’s horse

is mid-gallop, legs folded,
body suspended
in the pink air. Where is that girl

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Our Eyes Can See Colors That Don’t Exist

By Lisa Alletson

Magenta is a trick of the brain 
my sister explains, her hair 
abandoned like a trick of God.

I take her photograph as sunlight 
muscles in on her bald head,
her daughter hugging her legs.

She glances at it, laughs. 
Mom will like this one 
because I look like an angel.

She does, backlit near Durham Cathedral 
fourteen strands of golden hair—
a halo of wisps.

I like numbers, so I walk ahead
to read the date on the Statue of Neptune
between the Kate Spade store

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The Hofstetters Go Back to the Hotel

By Will Kelly

Featured Art: Hotel Lobby by Edward Hopper

Dad was reading the encyclopedia from cover of A to back cover of Z right up until the week he died. He had been at it for two years, and was somewhere in the Es that night the tie rods failed. We’d never know exactly which article he left off on, because he could remember page numbers and had no need for bookmarks. He was amazing like that.

If five volumes in two years sounds unimpressive, I should add that this was on top of all his regular reading: all the novels, the popular nonfiction, the medical journals, and every one of those yearbook supplements that went with the encyclopedia itself. I don’t know of anyone else actually reading those things, but he did so every year as soon as they arrived in the mail.

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205 Bistro

By: Brock Guthrie

Converted historic train station—perfect place
to sit with my family at this reclaimed farmhouse table 
in view of the corrugated-metal-paneled bar
with its bowls of hardboiled eggs 
instead of pretzels or peanuts
and to observe, with the intent to eventually eat, 
this grilled watermelon salad
while waiting for my herb-crusted duck
which was free-ranged in nearby Marengo County 
as Mina redacts with purple crayon
any semblance of the comical panda 
on her coloring placemat
and Brooke says Manny kicked her kidneys 
from inside her thirty-week womb. But look:

there goes Dennis, father of three, newly divorced 
from his wife of fifteen years, and with him’s
old Pete, engaged to a woman we haven’t yet
seen proof of, each carrying a stein of golden lager into
the warm Thursday evening
of the spring-dappled beer garden
to watch, no doubt, underdog Auburn
take on top-seed UNC in the Sweet 16
on the bistro’s new 85-inch 4K Ultra HDTV.

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Future Perfect

By Susan Kress

This mail is been
writing to you
because I have come
to understand
you want
to have received
your reward for
succeeding to rescue
me, a prince of royal lineage
with seven palaces
and still a wife
of beauty and resplendence
to find.
I will have been awed
by your patience shining
in its box of gold
but for you to stop from living
in the desert
and to have enter
in a garden of soft green
leaves, all I will have needed
is your name and date
of having been born
and a check you will
have written now to me
care of the federal government of
Link here to make good
my trouble in sending you
a horde of dollars.
If you will have trusted
in this translucent
arrangement of letters,
I can promise you
a future perfect and
forever joy.

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“You May Want to Marry My Husband”

By Susan Kress

We are at breakfast, he and I, enjoying Sunday
tea and buttered toast, browsing sections

of the newspaper. Here’s a thing, he says, a letter
written by a dying woman
. She’s listed

all her husband’s assets, commending him—
a handsome, smart, kind, loving, pancake-

making man—to some future spouse.
I sip my cooling tea and do not offer any future

letter of my own as I watch him lick his
forefinger to mop up toast crumbs—

see beyond him through the window heavy
heads of peonies bowed down from summer storms.

Here’s the thing:

I most surely do not want my husband
to be happy without me. If I die first, he’s got

to miss me every minute (my cold feet, chili meat
loaf, helpful interruptions when he tries

to make a point). No one else can wear my opal ring,
put on my oven mitts, warm my yellow teapot.

When he turns the pages to another section,
looks up again, he’ll see that I am gone—

my orange chair quite empty—our cross-
word puzzle on the table, one clue left to solve.

Outside, the peonies have straightened up a bit.
With stakes, they’ll last another day or two at least.

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One of Us and The Other

By Lisa K. Buchanan
Featured Art: Studies of Men and Women in Medieval Dress by Byam Shaw

One of us is eloquent at 11 P.M. on unhinged dictators and the threat of nuclear war. The other is half-lidded in pursuit of flannel sheets. Or was, anyway.

One of us is a rowdy sleeper, blankets swirling and pillows airborne. The other babbles. One repels intruders and struggles to defuse a bomb. The other dreams a question: Can the failure of bodily organs be contemplated in random order or must it be chronological? One flails, tossing a wild fist; the other yelps in pain. One laughs without waking up. The other wakes up if a neighbor down the block inserts a bare foot into a fleecy slipper.

One of us wonders whether consciousness came before matter; the other doesn’t. One grapples with matters of spirituality. The other cannot suffer the word. One burns with existential questions: Are we alone in the universe? What happens to our memories after we die? Does evil exist, like radio waves, beyond human will? The other talks to strangers on the bus.

One of us hotly refused to marry a person who didn’t believe in God. The other hotly refused to marry a person who did. Each stomped down the street in the opposite direction. Eventually, one pulled up to the curb and opened the door. The other had crafted a cutting refusal, but slid into the passenger seat instead.

One of us was expelled from Hebrew school. The other preached the gospel to sidewalk strangers. One wore hair grease and played in a rock band at thirteen; the other wore a white robe and hymned as a child of Job. One graduated high school with the titular distinction of Crush; the other, with a distinguished truancy record. One was tear-gassed at an anti-war protest in Berkeley. The other attended martini lunches in what POTUS 40 called “the place where all good Republicans go to die.”

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Nothing Will Happen

By Jeff Tigchelaar

Don’t buy that, nothing will happen
I said to Johnny Cash
played by Joaquin Phoenix
early in that movie
when he was in Germany
when he was in the service
and saw some six-strings hanging in a store
and was like huhh guitars huh
and for some reason my wife cracked up
and had to press pause and use Kleenex
on her eyes and I thought
because I hadn’t made or even heard
her laugh in a while

we were separated almost or mostly
her dad was dying plus Trump and Covid
then about an hour or so later (oh it’s a long one)
Johnny sees June
Carter alone in a diner
and figures what the heck
and starts heading over
and I figure what the heck and say
Don’t talk to her, nothing’ll happen
and my wife didn’t crack up like before
but she did laugh again
a real one not just courtesy
and I was like hell yes but of course
there’d be hard times
and there would be scenes
like the one where he rips
the sink from the wall
though it wasn’t in the script he just
summoned his rage up and did it somehow
and you can hear the gushing of the water off screen
as it all hits the ground
but an hour or so later in the credits
(toward the end but we stuck around)
the real June and Johnny start singing

and sing Maybe we can work this out
Oh honey I think we can

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A Day at the Museum

By Kathleen Holliday

Despite blistered heels
in new shoes,
I can’t seem to leave this gallery
of sarcophagi.

I limp closer to a glass case
where displayed en pointe
a pair of tiny sandals lies
pristine, and I wonder—
never worn?

Parting the stream of visitors
two statues rise monolithic
a man and woman, side by side
each an arm circling the other’s waist.

Look at them, still standing
never turning back.

Look, I’d say, if you were here
how they’ve outlasted us.

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A Fortune in Trades

By Cecilia Hagen

Once, for fixing a car, my husband was paid with a large bag
of small fish—smelt, frozen into a block that was flecked
with scores of silver eyes. I would bring a dull knife
out to the chest freezer and break off a chunk,
let it thaw in the sink and feed it to the cats and dog.

Another customer shaved off some of the cost of her engine rebuild
by knitting my husband wool socks that needed to be washed
a particular way, which I failed to do, because this customer
wanted to do more for him than knit his socks, and maybe did.
After they shrank, I could have but wouldn’t wear the socks myself,

a waste I could live with. In the pantry sat another trade, a jar
of home-canned venison I never dared to open.
Those purplish cubes of meat in their purplish fluid
pushed against the jar’s insides for years.

My favorite trades were the things the metalsmith made:
a hammered a rack for pans, a copper vase,
and three bright numbers that still mark that house—
beautiful things with the tang of the earth inside them.

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By Tanya Bomsta

First, it was a painting of sunflowers. He had always been afraid of them, had always thought their gaudy yellow petals blossomed from something sinister. And their height—it was unnatural, he thought, for a flower to stare you in the face. They were plants, not people. Christopher was tall himself, just about six feet. Tall enough to meet a short sunflower, but not quite tall enough to tower over one. It unnerved him, the way they seemed to look at him, the seeds in their disks like so many spider eyes. He shuddered every time he drove by the boundless fields of them on his way to work, with their leggy stems bending un- der the gross weight of their heads, their huge blank faces open and screaming in the wind.

But there had been a painting in the museum, and he hadn’t been able to stop looking at it. In the background, a nasty storm with deep purple clouds billowed against a bruised sky. In the foreground, the shadowed, golden petals of three sunflowers were being buffeted by the fierce gusts. Dark sky, dark flow- ers, the threat of storm so strong he almost turned his head and looked out the museum window to see if it was raining.

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Open Mic at Tony’s Bar and Grill

By Tracey Knapp

There’s a man with the rope of a cowbell curled
around his Captain Morgan. He whispers his poems
from a stack of papers, sees your own and nods,
buys you a drink. No conversation needed.
Another person adjusts their blonde wig and quietly
sings Mi mi mi mi meeeee repetitively. You wonder
what song they’ll actually sing—their wig slightly off tilt.
A man cradles his ukulele like a baby. Everyone stares
into their drinks, performing their rehearsal, rubs
the dark worn wood of the bar. You doodle stars
on your pages. Half the people here will only show up
once. No one will tip, and they’ll leave their empty glasses
on the sticky tables, their printouts of songs and poems
on the floor. You were the first to arrive, not thinking
to stop home and put on something more formal
than yoga pants. It doesn’t matter. There is some
common urge to perform whatever thought you have,
to share with these strangers. It’s Sunday night
and raining. Why sit alone silently on your faulty couch
with the endless drone of 60 Minutes on the television,
the single-serving life of pasta and tomato sauce, the rain
driving the ants into your kitchen? Someone taps
the microphone, says HELLO, HELLO. The wig rises
to the stage, sings “I Fall to Pieces” unconvincingly.

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A Working List

By Tracey Knapp

  1. Tell your online boyfriend your real age.
  2. Sweep the seeds and leaves from the porch. The winds were harsh last week.
  3. Practice sneezing more quietly. Stop the throat-scratch hacking. Who
    could sleep next to that?
  4. Why are you still single? Ask your friends. They know everything about
    your failures.
  5. Dump your shitty friends who can detail your failures verbatim back to you.
  6. Do the dishes. Remove your socks from the bed sheets.
  7. Bobby pins are not Q-Tips. Baby wipes are not bathtubs.
  8. Commit to eating like a person. With other people. Stop wasting your
    money on wine and prepackaged food at the 7-Eleven.
  9. Spend more time talking to yourself outdoors at night when stoned.
  10. Stop drinking wine. Stop drinking. But only when alone. Except if you
    were drinking with people beforehand, and you came home to your dog.
  11. Watch less TV. Except, re-watch the movie Frances Ha. You are a dancer,
    and you have dreams.
  12. All those goddamn books you buy and barely open.
  13. Make the world more beautiful! Take one earring, preferably dangled and
    missing its mate. Hang it from an old nail or forgotten hook. A quiet,
    lucky place.
  14. Quit losing earrings. Quit earrings. Quit things.
  15. Put your old jeans in a box and then the attic. And someday when you
    move into a new bright house with a new love, you’ll pull them out, thin
    and mothy, you’ll delight: I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! THEY ALMOST FIT!
  16. Grow things. Give away things. Give away your neighbor’s excessive
    lemons. Your tight jeans.
  17. Recycle more. Stop hoarding the little gifts that someone gives you when
    they kind of liked you because they barely knew you. The broken ceramic
    rabbit isn’t even emblematic.
  18. Appreciate your one good knee, your moisturized cuticles, and the hair
    that grew back on your head after you got rid of that fucking IUD.
  19. Reach into that folder of old letters pull out the one with the nicest paper.
    Don’t read it. Just touch it and let it be the cramp in the gut of all the
    people who used to love you by hand.
  20. Celebrate your old-man dog. In the following order, give him: a walk, a
    scratch, a bath, a treat, a nap, a brush, a walk, a treat, a nap.
  21. Write down a list of what you could do to be your best.
  22. Narrow it down to ten.

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By Kathleen Loe

The gravelly edge of the old macadam
crunches when Daddy Man veers, slightly over
his two-cocktail breakfast limit—whoa!

And Mama’s all, “Bi-ill!”, sherry sloshing
in her Dixie cup, me and my altar-boy brothers
welded to the backseat of red Chevy summer

vinyl, our own trinity, looking and not looking
for a tiny worn-out sign set meekly back
from the scorching road—St. Lucy’s Catholic Church,

faded and falling away, not the go-to
for the church-going in this neck of the north
piney woods. Far from a hundred cathedrals

sinking in the soft black silt of New Orleans,
we aim toward a single consecrated
gray rectangle stuck in the Chitimacha’s

red clay of North Hodge. Lucky pagans,
or even Methodists, might miss the turn
and be flung past the money-stench

of the paper mill, or further still to actual
wet towns with no need for Jubilee—
Jubilee, cross-dressing bootlegger

come to wax our floors and pocket the cash
and slip my mama her black-market hooch
every week in our dry-as-dust little podunk town

in East Jesus North Looziana, the pure
whitewalled tires of her luscious pink
booze-bought Caddy cutting trenches

in the sweet St. Augustine grass
of our front yard. It ain’t me that’s drunk
in this story about having to go to church

every damn Sunday morning all summer long,
no matter how crazy hot, no matter
if my best friend Bernadette is fixin’ to go

waterskiing on Black Lake instead,
worse thing about that being the snakes
you might wake falling in the wrong spot,

but I’d still pick some dozing water moccasins
over this weekly ecclesiastical misery.
Any minor road accident would be welcome

I pray, I pray we hit a huge nine-banded
armagorilla if it means I don’t have to go
to Confession today, having traded

The Examination of Conscience last night
for finishing Catcher in the Rye under the covers,
accompanied by muffled laughs from Johnny Carson

in my parents’ bedroom. Okay. Pinched
my brother, lied to Mama, ate my best
friend’s Twinkie. Wished and wished

that I was the pretty one, instead of her.

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Upcountry Detour

By Sydney Lea

An old man sluggishly waves a hand.
He looks spellbound, as if by an apparition:
A stranger, me, in a place few visit.
I’m sidetracked into my own odd spell—
Both sadness at bleakness and fascination.
There’s a sign in another dooryard, bizarre:
Atrini, World’s Finest Files.

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The hardest part of losing her mother in 2020

By Nancy Miller Gomez

was after the memorial, her laptop propped on the table
cluttered with half-empty teacups and books
as her mother’s body was buried two time zones over

in Louisiana. After the eulogies and prayers,
and the few people standing graveside walked away
and all the others clicked off, there was nothing to do.

But she couldn’t bring herself to close the screen.
So she sat a long time watching her own face
looking back, and imagined she was her mother,

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