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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Befuddled

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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Doppel

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.”
—MyHeritage.com

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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Despots

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,
rapt.

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.

WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TONIGHT?
WHO HAVE YOU SEEN?
WHERE DID YOU MEET?
WHAT DID YOU TALK ABOUT?

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Adrift

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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Dancer

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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Alone

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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