New Ohio Review Issue 25 (Originally Published Spring 2019)

Newohioreview.org is archiving previous editions as they originally appeared. We are pairing the pieces with curated art work, as well as select audio recordings. In collaboration with our past contributors, we are happy to (re)-present this outstanding work. 

Issue 25 compiled by Nate Wilder Hervey

Work in Progress

By Lance Larsen

Featured Art: “Holy Family with Saint John the Baptist” Perino del Vaga

Use what’s handy color pencil shavings
dirt maybe bug parts cat hair also saliva

lots of it no paint or collage nothing
modern just a smudgy finger on textured

paper grind the colors in or swoosh
them around like a muskrat in mud

no pattern at first till wet scratches
turn chance into sky fear into a face

yours and not yours call this turmoil time
and materials call this a case of falling

feelingly if stuck have your beloved spit
on the dry parts pop failures in the oven

let divinity simmer let the making
unmake you every doubt an inky wing


Read More

Compost

by Lance Larsen

I sing the dreck we make a feculent muck
of saving the kingdom come of clipped

grass whirligig leaves and deadheaded
daylilies Parrot Moon kissing Primal Scream

all mixed with the god forbid of kitchen scraps
corn cobs like the chewed legs of pigs

tomatoes sluicy with vegetal roe the mosh-pit
hair of pineapples topped and here a scatter

of artichoke leaves like a dismembered
armadillo fortune cookies minus the fortune

Read More

No blueprint,

by Mary Jo Firth Gillett
Featured Art: “Fates Gathering in the Stars” by Elihu Vedder

no plan, no agenda, rather call it pulse and impulse,
zest and precipice, the mind mindful as a volcano

spilling over, or the sometimes bliss of the fisherman
dropping a line into the waters, the welters, the winds

of whatever may come from the twist and coil
of gray matter and what matter that it’s pure delusion

or that it’s—print it!—sensate escape, if it be a stay
against the onslaught of despot, tsunami, flight

of refugee, of sanity—and yes, print it flounder
in murky water, not the fish but struggle for the lure

flash and shimmer just out of reach. Or else shift
the metaphor to the heart, a steed wild for wilderness,

bucking the known reigns, the towers of Babel,
confusion of tongues. Print it hard but true,

the what’s-the-matter sudden matters of health,
the sharp word given or received, and who cares

what garb—bathrobe, hip boot—in this dream state
dangling on the edge of disaster, of paradise, each letter

a bodily sound held in the mouth, each spark a jumble
of luck and pluck, both zoo and zoom, design bucking

certain decline, a dive into the deep Sargasso of eel,
whale, syllable, tangle of seaweed, wrangle of word.

Read More

Poem for the Peony

by Mary Jo Firth Gillett

Not one is dissatisfied, not one is demented
with the mania of owning things,
. . . Not one is respectable or unhappy over
the whole earth.
—Walt Whitman

Peonies open their untutored hearts as if to write
a treatise on passion.

The raw and sensuous peony was mentor
to Marilyn and Mae.

A magnum opus,
the peony bloom unfolds, page upon page.

The peony, one with water, knows nothing
of river.

Oscar Wilde admired the peony:
“Nothing succeeds like excess.”’

Does the opening peony write odes to the ant
or vice versa?

Martha Graham, Josephine Baker, even Elvis,
studied the moves of peony blossoms in the wind.

In the presence of the peony, fake flowers—
plastic or silk—
wither.

The dawdling schoolboy presents a peony blossom.
“Tardy” is expunged from the dictionary.

Read More

Landscape with iPhone

by Emily Mohn-Slate
Featured Art: The Sick Child – Edvard Munch

I don’t want to tweet this thought that comes to me as I’m
changing my daughter’s diaper—don’t want to pull my phone
out of my pocket—my phone is growing a tree right now
with an app called “Forest” that rewards me for not looking
at my phone—and what I want is for a thought to enter,

to hold it in my head, spin the words over and around
until they’re smooth, but I should tweet soon, I haven’t tweeted
in days, and now my daughter needs me to be here with her. Still,
I want to hold a thought like an orange, peel it in pieces,
which I can’t do while I’m circling

a Band-Aid around her finger either, kissing her hand, swiping
the notification, scrolling, scrolling—Mama, watch me! Look at me!
I’m looking but my phone is a hot siren in my pocket, I touch it
but—my digital tree: its roots are thickening now, its pixel flowers

blooming, white petals, yellow center—I want to watch
my daughter learn to hold a crayon—three fingers making
a little house, a splotch of pine, her mind unfolding.
And where is my thought? It slipped out the window

of my daughter’s new house, its comet tail vanishing.
What distracted animals we are—wanting loud, wanting now.
But how do I ignore all the shine when it arrives?
Can’t it be enough to be alive with my daughter
in our dry winter skins in April, surviving until we slip

our feet sockless into sandals, when I can witness,
thinking or not, her giant puddle-jumps, her
whoops of joy? Yes. And I will grow this tree
in my pocket, and I will look at her. I will.

Read More

Roost

by Janice N. Harrington
Featured Art: Nude Figures by Cape Creus – Salvador Dalí

Circling above bare limbs, like Dalí’s wild and articulate capes,
black wings undulate. Raucous hundreds settle and splat
their stench. A murder of crows, a give-a-fuck mob,
stirs the air above ash and oak and hackberry, milling
and loud with news: day heralds, unwelcomed Cassandras.
Dawn light pinched by a crow’s beak, pieces of light falling
everywhere, bright meat that the crow pecks, strips away.

The crows know my neighbor’s face. Knowledgeable birds,
they know the way I hurry each morning, the way my eyes try
to read their dark signs: articulate smoke, curtains
of a confession booth. Blessing? Pardon? Mercy?
The stories say that crows suffer scorched wings, that they
are cursed for stealing from the gods. But the stories, as always, err,
wind-running, wings wide, a-glide on a slide of air,
black bodies, bituminous-black, cosmos-black rising to soar.
There is no damnation in their dizzying speed, the break-wing
improvisations of their flight. God–blessed and black,
their sharp notes strike my skull like hailstones or chunks
of sky, dark bodies that lift my eyes and scorn gravity, a lesser law.

Read More

Selling

by Judy Kronenfeld
Featured Art: Unfinished Monster – Hugh Laidman

Heads thrown back after one
bubbly sip—the young in soft drink commercials
seem as lavishly happy
as lottery winners. They look
the way we imagine ourselves
on the stages of our dreams—glamorous,
anointed, spotlit—our luck about to spill
into graciousness.

And even in ads for walk-in bathtubs,
incontinence pull-ups, stair chairs,
dementia care, the actors don’t merely grin
and bear it, but almost chortle,
like Cheshire cats who just
swallowed these amazing canaries,
though the old they represent
are more like expiring birds.

But the worst soft pitch: the “personal” Christmas
pictures taken in the dementia wing
of my father’s “retirement home.”
In another life, his face would say
This is ridiculous, even if he played along,
and sat in the appointed armchair
by the tree, and hugged the enormous white
teddy bear prop, as instructed.
But he is in this current life,
and guilelessly presses his warm cheek
against the bear’s fuzzy one,
and stabilizes the bear’s plump feet
with his free hand, as if they were a child’s.

Read More

Recovery

by Max Bell
Featured Art: Monkey by Anonymous

Two Weeks

Lisa left when the droid arrived. There was no period of transition, no time for Richard to adjust. After she signed for it, she carried it into the living room, set it down in front of him on the worn shag, and began saying her goodbye. Like the stitches in his hip, she was disappearing, dissolving in front of him. He did not, however, rejoice in the knowledge of her impending absence.

Read More

What is your favorite passtime?

by Robert Danberg

The form asked, “What is your favorite past time?”
So I wrote how I loved the 1947 Technicolor American comedy classic
Life with Father.
Whereas home to me as a kid felt like the morning after a trip to the emergency room,
William Powell’s brood lived on the brink of a joy omnipresent
in the wealthy brownstones of Gay Nineties New York,
and in Meet Me in St. Louis, which opens
on Mary Astor and Marjorie Main making ketchup,
Judy Garland’s face in repose always seemed baffled by love.
And who knew ketchup could be made?

Then, I peeked and saw my neighbor’d written “tennis.”
The guy on the other side, “tailgating.”
I noted that the question before was favorite color,
the one after, what would you do with an unexpected day off.
(Blue, by the way. And, of course, watch whatever’s on Turner Classic Movies.)

Suddenly, I was tired.
I longed for the time before I was ever asked this question.
I crossed out my answer and drew an arrow to the bottom where I wrote
“When I was twenty and my body was a blossom
trembling to shake itself from the vine.”

Read More

My Life Is Like This

by John Mark Ballenger

Each night I keep trying to say something
specific before sleep, something about time
or the horizon. How time unwinds
like a copperhead or the fear
of a copperhead or the spaces between
hay bales, under porch steps.
I try to say something
about the ash of memory, a farmhouse
firm in my mind and burned to the ground
of my childhood, standing and consumed
every moment.
About the distance light
travels from the glacier-crumpled
Southern Ohio hills to the shadowed
valley bottoms. The horizon
that weighs down the eye, reduces the world
to a hollow, a creek, a hardwood canopy,
ivy overcoming ancient leaning barns,
a half-sunk Ford Pinto and the speckled blue
of a robin’s egg in the grass. I want to say
something of men talking under a great
sugar maple in the late summer dark, a mud dauber
tapping against a window, my mother speaking
her mother’s name.
In my dream the words are exactly
the thing itself: time, horizon, copperhead, dark, robin’s
egg in grass, my mother, at last, a revelation.

Read More

Marriage Player

by John Mark Ballenger
Featured Art: Science Instructing Industry – Kenyon Cox

Place into our mouths this day the coolness
of ice cubes from a heavy-bottomed glass, the burn
of bourbon on our barely parted lips,
pursed
as if to receive a glowing Kentucky coal
that our grandfathers shoveled
in their youth into stoves 5 o’clock
each new morning before the barn chores.
Grant us strength to willingly undress,
to lie down naked and limp and freckled
and biopsy-scarred along the
shoulder blade
and hernia-scarred at the pubic line
and ashamed for what has been taken
and unashamed of what we have made.
And let her not fear my hand,
the stiffening knuckles or the clumsy
sandpaper ends of my fingers, as it rises
to touch her neck or cheek. And let me not
fear the look on her face
as she turns away.

Read More

Manhattan Afternoon

by Ansie Baird
Featured Art: Cigarettes – Ken Schles

In April, the nice man with the nice smile
looked straight at her and said, Desire.
It’s a matter of having no desire.
He said, This must be the most delicious
pastrami sandwich I’ve ever eaten.
Come here and see these drawings.
This looks like the house I used to own.
Two dry gin martinis, up, with a twist.
What the hell, let’s share the panna cotta.
Those new earrings are just right
on you. Also, I forgot to say I’ve met
another woman. It’s only forty blocks
back to the hotel and such a lovely day,
let’s walk and window shop. There’s still
some time before you catch your train.
It’s not about you, you’re a nice person.
It’s about desire for you. I haven’t any.

Read More

Portrait of Love as Failed Vocabulary Quiz

by Kristin Robertson

May I call you endeavor? May I call you
gingerly? I haven your sleek and luminous
ovation. My ardent of the mercenary, I’ll infinite
the wrangle, hovering and turbulent, for you.
Sublime citadel, listen to this intricate as it
teems. Let’s muse your decipher like a serene,
a voracious. Let’s just connoisseur. Is this
an awry between us or a crusade? Say era.
Say epoch. I gather handfuls of the panoramas
and the culminate: Say yes. I will comb your
legendary, straighten your desolate. My mouth
staminas ever ever for your succumb. Don’t you
hear the fluster, that sweet forfeit? You still
phenomenon me. Together, we phenomena.

Read More

Toyota Yaris

by Dan J. Vice
Featured Art: Kim and Mark in the Red Car – Nan Goldin

The repeated syllable in Toyota Yaris
The “ya ya” at the heart of Toyota Yaris
The 2 y’s that feel like 5 y’s
and I’m far too wise to fall
for the sound of it
The roll around in your mouth of it
The rounding of your mouth like the slow slope of the roof of it
Toyota Yaris
The squat hunched hood and the back half with the hatchback
The silhouette like the cat arching its back Toyota Yaris
The dash Toyota Yaris, the seat Toyota Yaris
No part of the whole, no part of the car not Yaris
The eighty thousand miles and counting, and counting
The tires that ride round the edge of a dime
Spin a donut so tight it’s a Hostess Donette
By the grace of the artist who made the car
Have Toyota will Yaris
I didn’t know what my life was lacking, wasn’t looking
for an answer to the what-is-my-problem, but one night I waltzed
onto the lot and the rest as they say is Yaris
To name the world is to change it wrote Freire
and I am changed, enchanted by the chant of it
You, Toyota, you toy, Toyota
You, toy Toyota, yada yada
Toyota Yaris. This is not
sponsored content, it’s
an incantation, a thanksgiving prayer

Because a group of men at a table in a room
invented a phrase that invented a feeling
I think I really love you, you Toyota Yaris
And how is it that that is a feeling that is?

Read More

You Want to Go Back

by Fleming Meeks
Featured Art: Johnny Dunn’s Sandwhich Shop – Walker Evans

You want to go back is the name of your car,
the make, the model, the name you give the swaying trees,
the rustle of leaves before a thunderstorm
as sun gives way to clouds and quiet falls
on a meadow of grass and clover.
You want to go back and ask the question.
Or you dream it. Or it’s a movie with Walter Huston,
the rumor of a movie at MGM, killed
before shooting began. Nothing was written down,
no minutes of the meetings, nothing
but a few scraps of papyrus, of vellum, of cuneiform
carved into stone, baffling translators.
Or typed on onion skin, brittle and cracked
in a box in the basement of the first house
you ever bought, along with a fund-raising letter
from Dwight Eisenhower, then president
of Columbia University, and a water-stained circular
from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists warning
of the danger of a full-scale atomic war.
The temperature is dropping, the wind is erratic,
swift and then calm. You want to go back.

Read More

Rabbit Summer

by Jane Marcellus
Winner, Editors’ Prize for Prose, selected by Dinty W. Moore

He is standing there in a spattered white lab coat, holding up a bunch of car- rots. I am standing here in the doorway, hoping I’ve come to the right place.
     “You must be Jane,” he says. “Guess who these are for?”
     From a few feet away, I notice his eyes. They are brown—so brown that I cannot see his pupils. I keep looking at his eyes, trying to nd them, trying to make certain that it is me, here, that he is looking at. His gaze makes me aware that I am actually a person standing here, in this spot—a person with a name, which is Jane, which he knows. I am not used to feeling seen. I am used to feeling invisible. It is unnerving—blinding even—to be seen by a person whose pupils I cannot see, a person who knows my name.
     I am young, although I do not know it. Twenty-one. I confuse feeling seen, and this odd feeling of being blinded, for love.
     “Yes,” I say. “I’m Jane.”

Read More

Miracle of Life

by Joanne Dominique Dwyer
Featured Art: On the Shore – William Trost Richards

One of the abounding miracles of life on Earth
is that somewhere at this moment a couple
is sitting in their backyard drinking alcohol together.
The lawn might be manicured or it might be overgrown
with Devil’s Trumpet and Lantana weeds.
The backyard might belong to one of their elderly parents
who is lying in a darkened back room watching television
as the couple imbibes India Pale Ale and mulberry wine.
Though maybe it’s ethanol, because they just got
news they can’t have children.
Or cartons of coconut water because
they just came back from the gym.
Regardless of what they are swallowing
and whether or not the backyard smells of cut grass,
Asian barbeque, or the pheromones of raccoons,
together they are watching the stars enter the sky one by one,
like teeth rising up into the gums of a toddler
as the crying of mosquitoes and horseflies
being electrocuted in the iridescent bug zapper
over-occupies the atmosphere.
To the point that when the man says
Freud would find the above metaphorical reference
to teeth sexual
, the woman can’t quite hear him.
Instead she is contemplating the exacting way the man
lifts the brown beer bottle to his mouth, as if he is heralding
hound dogs through a horn; and about the way he
opened his car door last week for the neighbor woman
with olive skin and tattoos around her ankles,
because she said her car wouldn’t start
and she needed a ride into town
to return an overdue library book
and to euthanize her ferret.

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Shallow Person

by Joanne Dominique Dwyer
Featured Art: Man Wearing Laurels – John Singer Sargent

What if I were not a shallow person.
Did not need an Arapaho blanket swaddled
around me in order to sleep less fitfully.
Did not need honey in my mouth.
Or a handsome man
to motivate me to shower.

What if we were all made of light.
What if I was able to mimic an aviary bird,
could hide all signs of sickness,
did not spend hours making rubber band balls.
We are all made of light.
Yet we still make excuses for our egos’ devastations.
Such as my mother preferred her polo ponies over me.

What if the seesaw were to come unhinged.
And your dog bit you in the femoral artery
while you were teaching your child to ride a bike.
What if I did not need opiates to talk to you,
could dress in a color-coordinated manner.
What if I were backseat enough
to never need to say another word.

What if the African continent lifted up from the earth,
travelled like a magic carpet, landed on North America
smothering the U.S.A. as if it were putting out a fire.
And the African continent liked its new home
did not mind being a continent on top of another continent
did not mind hearing all the dead below it crying
out for their fields of leveled corn and smashed swing sets.
Some of us begging for shish kabobs,
others of us moaning for tofu and kale smoothies
with a scoop of flax and whey,
or ribs and coleslaw and beer.
What if I never swallowed cough syrup.
And Caspian tigers were not extinct.
And chrysanthemums levitated.

What if I stopped whitening my teeth
pitched a tent in your backyard
propagated violets and cacti
did not need a communion wafer
or a man’s tongue to feel inhabited.
What if I were ordinary enough to ride the bus,
eat microwave dinners.

And what if I had been brave enough the day the sun
bore its heat down on us, browning our scalps
as we swatted away horseflies and hornets
to have run over Uncle Bob with the tractor
instead of unwittingly masticating
the den of newborn rabbits.

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Success

by Tony Hoagland
Featured Art: Space Riders – Tom O’Hara

After a year of rehab and therapy, the country western singer
went back to writing songs; but he had changed.

Lyrics like, “Good Boundaries Make a Better Kind of Friend,”
and, “When You Say Bye, I Feel So Violated”

—they simply didn’t have the punch of his best work.

*****

In New York, Famous Joe’s Pizza Parlor on Travis Street
is suing Joe’s Famous Pizza on East Ninth Ave for stealing its name.

The battle rapidly grows vicious. The courtroom smells
of melted, burning cheese.

If he wins, Famous Joe says that his attorney will get free slices for life.

*****

“Jesus had a great career,” says one of the students, on Monday morning,
reading out loud from his assignment;
then, sensing an uneasy silence, “Well, but he was famous, wasn’t he?”

*****

The mountain climber who actually made it to the summit,
the place so many of his friends had failed to reach,
got one great photograph, plus permanent damage
to nerves in his nose and his ears, both hands and feet.

*****

“If I hadn’t dropped out of cooking school,” says Gretchen, happily,
“I would never have mastered my
Sunday morning waffles for screaming kids,
which I believe will be my greatest legacy.”

*****

Why don’t you tell me about your life for a change?
Did you carry it carefully, like a brimful cup of water,
bound for a particular flower?
Or did you keep accidentally turning around
to look at something else,
and slosh it all over the place, like me?

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Sunday at the Mall

by Tony Hoagland
Featured Art: Crouching Woman – Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix

Sweetheart, if I suddenly flop over in the mall one afternoon
while taking my old-person-style exercise
and my teeth are chattering like castanets,
and my skull is going nok nonk nok on the terra cotta tiles
of the well-swept mall floor;

my tongue stuck out, my eyes rolled up in my head—
Don’t worry, baby, we knew this kind of excitement
might possibly occur,
and that’s not me in there anyway—

I’m already flying backwards, high and fast
into the big arcades and spaces of my green life
where I made and gave away and traded sentences with people I loved
that made us all laugh and rise up in
unpredictable torrents of fuchsia.

Dial 911, or crouch down by the body if you want—
but sweetheart, the main point I’m making here is:
don’t worry don’t worry don’t worry:
Those wild birds will never be returning
to any roost in this world.
They’re loose, and gone, and free as oxygen.
Don’t despair there, under the frosted glass skylight,
in front of the Ethiopian restaurant
with the going-out-of-business sign.

Because sweetheart, this life
is a born escape artist,
a migrating fever,
a convict tattooed in invisible ink,
without mercy or nostalgia.
It came down to eat a lot of red licorice
and to adore you imperfectly,
and to stare at the big silent moon
as hard as it could,
then to swoop out just before closing time
right under the arm of the security guard
who pulls down the big metal grate
and snaps shut the lock in its hasp
as if it, or he, could ever imagine
anything that could prevent anything.

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Learning Swedish in Secret as a Joke

by Bobbie Jean Huff
Featured Art: Breton Girls Dancing Pont Aven – Paul Gauguin

All this passing on going on, almost
as if it were contagious. Words you’ve recently learned
spill easily from your lips:
Wenckebach, biliary, Cetuximab, granuloma,
the new bright colors of life. Just when
you were getting bored with the
pinks, purples, and greens on offer
for almost seven decades,

you’d happily now trade blasts and plasma cells for
brown or black or tan. But as surely
and hard as you know how many platelets it takes
to sustain life, you know that
more new words will show up soon.
Months ago you learned that “consistent with” means
you have it, and, last week, that “refractory” means
the treatment has quit working.

Now that you realize you’ll never learn Swedish,
in secret and as a joke
(to surprise your daughter-in-law with at dinner time),
you understand it’s not that you’re running out of
brain cells,
you’re running out of time.
You can’t learn sjuka and middag while you’re learning
leukopenia and transampullary.

You never expected this.
You never thought it would come to this!
(That’s the funny part. Has it ever not been there?)
Wake up and
you will see it even now,
gliding merrily in your direction,
not even bothering to look you in the eye,
as if you are the last thing on its mind—and if

you squint you will notice it gather a little speed
(the teensiest of fuck-you’s),
like a sailboat in languid waters
a moment after the wind has shifted.

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You Are My Sunshine

by Bobbie Jean Huff

Let me begin by offering my condolences, I said,
holding out my hand. She shook out her umbrella
and placed it open, just beside the altar. They thought
it was an ulcer, she said. They gave him some tablets.
Did he have any special requests? I asked. Favorite
hymns? Or something for Communion, like maybe
Water Music? He was worse by Christmas, she said.
He couldn’t manage the pumpkin pie. He always loved
my pumpkin pie. The King of Love is nice, I said. I
opened the book to page 64. As an alternate to Crimond,
you know. Most people don’t recognize it as the 23rd
Psalm. In January his feet turned black, she said. Toe by
toe. It took exactly ten days. The shadow of a branch
moved slowly back and forth behind the stained glass.
I thought: When I get home I’ll check my toes. Will
there be Communion? I asked, finally.

The last three days he started to hiccup, she said.
He wouldn’t take any water. It never stopped, the
hiccupping. Not once, not one minute until he went. I
could play Pachelbel’s Canon. That’s very popular now.
There’s no reason it can’t work at funerals as well as
weddings. At the very end, she said—then stopped, her
eyes squeezed shut behind her glasses—as if the
rejected water, each wretched hiccup, and every
blackened toe formed a chain she could use to haul
herself back to September, when she would claim
him, finally whole again.
She reached for her umbrella and frowned. Play
what you like, she said. He was never fond of music.
Not hymns, anyhow. Only once in fifty-three years
did I catch him singing. You are My Sunshine, I
believe it was.

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Devil’s Advocate

by Becky Hagenston

     His kid doesn’t want a smartphone. His fourteen-year-old flute-playing boy is saying, “Nah, I don’t really need one.” Mitch’s wife Shelley says, “No one’s forcing you, honey.” She beams. The boy beams. Mitch feels a faint nausea. There’s something wrong with his kid, who still likes Legos and watches network TV and keeps his room clean and calls his two nerd friends on the landline.
     “Well, that’s fine,” says Mitch. For some reason, he’s pitched his voice like an actor from a 1950s movie. He tries it again: “That’s just fine, son!” He’s speaking like a man wearing a fedora, a man carrying a briefcase. But nobody seems to notice. “So what do you want for Christmas?”
     His kid, Ernie, frowns as if Mitch has just asked him to poke a kitten in the eye. “I can’t think of anything at the moment,” he says. “Can I go practice flute now?”
     “Yes!” says Shelley. She rises from the sofa and kisses Ernie on the ear. “I’ll let you know when dinner’s ready. I’m making your favorite.”
     “Brussels sprouts?” he asks brightly. “And Salisbury steak?”
     “You bet,” she says. When Ernie has disappeared down the hall, she turns to Mitch. “Don’t force him to grow up before he’s ready.”
     Mitch knows better than to argue, but he can tell that his thoughts—not grow up, just join the 21st century like a normal kid!—might as well be floating above his head like a comic book bubble. Not that Ernie would get such a reference, because he doesn’t read comic books, either.
     “Okay,” he says, but Shelley has stomped down the hall to prepare the kid’s Brussels sprouts.

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Spring

by Lauren Shapiro
Featured Art: The Cock Sparrow – George Edwards

The nice teachers at the kindergarten open house
point out the Unifix cubes and color game;
they are professional in their analysis of play. Later
at Lainy’s party the operators of Jump ’N Bounce
just look away while the kids wrestle into an idyllic
sense of self. A mother tells me, hushed, how
one November morning Jason’s father parked the car
and blew his head off. Then it’s time for cake.
The kids are sweaty, tumbling over each other
for a spot at the table. I search Jason’s face
for a sign, a scar, but don’t find it—he’s waving
a noisemaker in Sean’s face, his mother chatting
pleasantly in the corner. Cue the birthday music.
Next day, we’re late, and I walk my distressed son
into school. “We might miss the eggs hatching!” he yells,
bounding down the stairs. The class is huddled
around the incubator, the glow from the heat lamp
flushing their faces. This must be a rite of passage,
watching a chick’s birth surrounded by friends.
It’s on the docket, tailored to the lesson plan, deemed
developmentally appropriate. It’s March, after all,
when the world glosses over its losses.

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Poem Beginning with “My Father”

by Craig van Rooyen
Featured Art: Ancient Roman Ruins – Giovanni Paolo Panini

Rome

1.

My father fills a syringe with insulin,
pushes the needle through his shirt into belly skin,
looks through the window at his dying lawn.
He writes a note to me: Summer’s early here, bud.
Your mom’s still on me to lay off the Snickers.
She means well, of course.
The oak tree’s about to go—groans all night long.
Caravaggio is one of my favorites. A sensitive scoundrel.
Go see Conversion On The Road To Damascus.
All is of Grace, Dad.

2.

Four lions stick out hollow tongues
in the middle of Piazza del Popolo.
Each tongue spews water—spilling down
stepped plinths into four collection pools
whose surfaces are mildly disturbed
but never overflow. With their perspective of stone,
the lions have remained unmoved for 200 years.
How, I wonder, can they gaze without weeping
at the sun-burned stoner strumming a distorted
“Stairway To Heaven.”
I stumble from one to another,
dropping coins until my pockets are empty.

3.

When he baptized me, my father’s robe floated
up around him like the wings of a manta ray,
revealing the soft skin of his shins to the believers.
We stood in a glass tank, with nothing to hide.
He covered my eyes with a handkerchief,
dipped me backwards into new life.
I trusted his strong arms
more than God.

4.

Fountains fill my photographs: pissing cherubs,
horses with fish tails. Granite seashells emerge
amid glistening mermaids—
breasts taut in the exquisite way
stone has of lying about flesh and time.

5.

How can I begin to soak it in?
My father has stopped watering his flowers.
Why can’t I remember the day
he became too weak to carry me?
He used to stand chest-deep,
pushing me into the muscled belly of waves
surging from a sea
that seemed to have no end.

6.

I try to dissolve in St. Peter’s Square
with other pilgrims who wish to feel something,
and almost—holding our little screens above our heads—
we become a bigger thing
and for that moment it feels as if God can see us
as an eagle is able to see fish
mouthing the bottom of the sky.

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Three Bells

by Craig van Rooyen
Featured Art: Strawberry Tea Set – Childe Hassam

—after “Seven Marys,” by Li-Young Lee

I sit, Sister Mary, among the other relics
in the Mission courtyard—
a cracked vat for boiling blubber
into lamp butter,
a wood-wheeled cart to haul
bear carcass to the butcher.
Underneath the bricks,
all the smallpox bones.
And these three bells, Sister Mary,
named Joy, Sorrow, and Gloria.
What am I to do when they toll?
Cast before I was born, each sings
to me in a different key: G, E minor,
and Chumash. Joy weighs 279 pounds
and wakes roosting starlings,
launches them from the parched oak tree,
black leaves falling upward.
Sorrow makes the wooden Indian
in front of Founders Smoke & Tobacco weep.
Gloria, Sister Mary, makes me shake.
Sounding wilder as I grow old and tame,
they ring in three tongues:
red, wildfire, and October.
Three bells, Sister Mary, three roads back.
And one says you are the green-eyed devil.
And one says the bears are gone.
But one says, Glory, you are here,
open your green eyes.
There is a fountain, Sister Mary,
a fountain not deep or wide, and into it
tourists toss coins bearing the heads
of our fathers, white and solemn and gone.
A fountain with a bear and a girl and three fish
all bronzed and greening from the air.
Water spews from the paw of the bear,
and the fish leap on their metal spindles, always
inches above the troubled waters,
and the little bronzed girl sees nothing
with her blank Chumash eyes—not the fish,
the white fathers tumbling head over tails,
or me on my bench in the sun sipping
from a bagged can while three bells toll
their braided song. We are nothing to her,
because she is long gone.
And what am I to do?
Bells tolling my guilt, solitude, privilege, joy.
One, Sister Mary, sings the beauty of milkweed tufts
blown down dry creek beds.
One whispers to me the forgotten dreams
of steelhead trout, and the sins of the fathers
visited unto the third and fourth generation.
And one orders my fingerprints pressed
onto the black wings of starlings.
And I can’t tell, anymore, Sister Mary,
one from the other

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Mailing a Letter

by Dawn Davies
Featured Art: Evocation of Roussel – Odilon Redon

The letter came back from the post office so mangled
it was as if the mailman had plucked it out of my box
before being jumped by a clot of street thugs.
Then, still carrying his mail bag, stumbled into a bar
because it was the third time this year that he’d gotten jumped
in my neighborhood, and why do guys gotta pick on him
just because he’s short (under five-six don’t make a man,
his father always said). Then drank scotch and soda
until the bartender made him stop, walked the dimming
summer streets in search of his truck, slept in a doorway,
woke up and vomited into his mailbag, found his truck
and skulked home to his wife, who had sent all four children
to the neighbors and was waiting up in yesterday’s clothes,
with a suitcase and a left hook brewing. Because she hated
the late hours the USPS forced him to carry, and by “late hours”
they both know she meant his cheating with the tiny
Castilian woman two zip codes over, and this thought
that poisoned her days now propelled her to stomp on his mailbag
and kick it off the porch for all that the mailbag stood for:
the overtime, the philandering, the childless Castilian
with the twenty-two inch waist. But then when she saw his face
with his eyebrows tipped and sorry, and she knew
that he hadn’t been sneaking around, but had gotten into trouble,
she sat him down, fed him coffee, and washed his wounds
before sending him back out for his morning shift,
because they both needed him to keep this job
(there was a pension attached, she had secretly started divorce
proceedings, was hungry for the alimony).
And so he got back to work and wiped off the fouled, wretched letters in his bag, feeding them through the system
before getting called into the supervisor’s, and because
the letter was wet, it got mangled in the maw of a sorting machine,
the address smeared and clotty, the stamp curled and dystonic,
and three weeks later, once the mailman was off probation,
the letter came back to him, smelling like machine oil and vomit,
clawed and shredded, stamped “Return to Sender,”
and he shoved it back in my mailbox with bite marks
from the beast that had mauled it, this letter to my father
on his deathbed, explaining why I wouldn’t be going to see him.

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Graduation

by Maria Nazos
Featured Art: Fern Alley – Felicity Gunn

As my father hands me a bouquet of roses
dyed the shade of a dozen sinking suns, my mother grasps
his steady arm, teetering. Her body
has begun its slow revenge for what it begrudged
all along, and she’s afraid to walk since her last fall, which
snapped her hip in half. My father is tired
of holding her up. He scolds, Just take it. Her hand shakes
as she holds the iPhone to get a photo
of me in my mortarboard and hood. Let go
and take it, he says, and she tries a one-handed
snapshot, her trembling arm still looped through his.

I stitch a smile across my face. The phone flashes.
As she grips his wrist, I can hear him in Greek,
the language reserved for anger and, once, for sex.
The language they speak and still think
I don’t understand. Can I live this way, Tia? he asks.

I clutch my bouquet to my chest, trying
to pretend these flowers aren’t lopped off at the stems.
Trying to move into the next phase of realization
that love is unsteady on its feet. That two people
can resent each other, but care for their daughter
and each other enough to stay put.
Refusing to wilt
into that place I’d go as a child—when I’d hear
their fights and retreat to the backyard to play
with cats, praying to make something else of myself, however
small—I stand tall.
How can I live like this?
he says to her again. Still, I’m posing, smiling
into the face of their slow decline.
And all three of us trying, best we can,
to hold each other shakily, and steadily upright.

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I Go Back to Mykonos 1976

by Maria Nazos
Featured Art: “Mykonos” – Maria Karalyos

                                                                             —after Sharon Olds’ “I Go Back to May 1937”

By the third martini, he’ll ask her to marry him.
She’s a tourist, he’s a captain, home by chance.
I stand at the window, watching. I want to walk
into that bar, order an ouzo, and tell them
that, together, they’ll create a new generation
of pain. I want to tell him to court the island girl,
the one who, forty years later, will see him, run
to the restroom, and return with a fresh coat
of lipstick. I want to tell my young mother,
in the words of the great North American philosopher,
Pamela Anderson, “Never get married on vacation.”
But this is long before Pam and Tommy Lee, before
I existed. Before Reagan reigned over his long line of wreckage,
and couples shot themselves, together, in their cars. The Vietnam War
has ended, but here I am standing
at the window, watching while they meet,
both oblivious of wars they’ll wage. They’ll move
from Greece back to the Midwest—she’ll drink, alone,
in her kitchen. He’ll return to the island every chance
he gets. When he’s back in Illinois, he’ll stare
into the aquarium and long for water. She’ll look
at him, frozen, behind her highball glass. Still, I stay
at the window of the bar, wanting to use Pam’s biting wit.
But this is long before Baywatch, and they’re gazing at the
bay. I tap the glass like Morse code. Sealed in
my own tank of silence, I say, Please let go.
But as they take each other’s hands, I softly touch
the pane and turn away. Because they, too, have the right
to plunge. Even if they’ll swim out too deep:
holding onto each other until death.

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Tough Love

by Paul Hansen

I was one of those kids that spent a lot of time on the internet. Chat rooms, message boards. ASL, S2R, and some gender tricks too. That stuff was normal in the Nineties. And it was all good clean fun until I fell in with some gun nuts when I was fifteen years old, the type of people that encrypt shit. Way down in the web. Amateur blacksmiths and whatnot. I got so into it I ended up putting together a makeshift muzzle loader out of Schedule 80 piping, cold American steel, something I saw on the blacksmithing forum. I tried it in the basement but it didn’t work so I got a slightly bigger ball bearing for ammunition, about the size of a marble. I took it to the backyard, propped it on some dunnage, put a flame to the fuse. And by god, it worked. There was this huge discharge, a cloud of smoke. It shot wildly though. Fucking hit my kid brother square in the leg. He was clear across the yard. Dad came running from the house. There was so much blood that none of it seemed real and after Dad stopped the bleeding he came at me and that’s the deepest fear I’ve ever felt.

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Without Pain

by Kelly Michels

“Swing in the Right Direction with OxyContin”
—marketing slogan from Purdue Pharma

All day the rain spills onto the backyard deck.
The narcoleptic hours, darkened and dim, rewind and nod off.

My mother walks five miles to the emergency room on a Sunday.
She complains of a toothache, tells the doctors she needs something

to get by. It is predicted the temperature will rise 30 degrees in the next
twelve hours, then drop 20 more tomorrow, which means more talk

of global warming or the next ice age, more waiting for the Earth’s
fever to break like a sick child.

On television, people are dancing in a field of wildflowers.
The sun hits their faces, their pupils confetti.

A man appears in a lab jacket, claims he has found the cure for all pain.
He crushes the flowers, alkaloids running white across his chin.

You too can be like them, he says. And maybe we can.
But then, without pain—

What will the monks chant? What shrouded
music, what raspy voice will rise from the A.M.

radio, move like heat lightning against our spines?
Who will hear our minareted cries, our tangled

whispering, lowered breath pleading with
the moon? What hand will rock us

to sleep, float through our hair
like bath water, bring us to our knees,

lift our awkward heads
toward the frayed dawn?

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Lucky

by Steven Dawson
Featured Art: Firer – Felicity Gunn 

The first time I watched Braveheart
was in the basement of Lucky’s dope house.
I remember the soft cone of light

reaching out from that small box TV
as if asking for spare change from the dark
and how that little glass frame made

blue-faced Wallace look so much
like an action figure (back when Mel
was somebody’s idea of a hero).

And in the downstairs bathroom hung
a cage with Lucky’s bird, a gray parrot
he took from a woman who couldn’t

pay him and that bird would pull
every dull feather from its back
and curse in Spanish as I watched.

I was nine or ten and alone with Braveheart,
that bird, and basement boxes I imagined filled
with a life before Lucky, when his name

might have been Greg or Brandon or even Mel.
This is how my brother babysat—
upstairs and horizontal with a needle

sleeping in his bowtied arm
like some guardian angel taking
work naps among hallway sleeping bags

swollen with strangers
practicing how to be dead
and Lucky’s bird downstairs

screaming chinga tu madre.

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Repossession

by Steven Dawson

To apologize for your vanishing
you brought me a loosey
and a rolled-up Hustler and we sat

in your new car trading smoke.
This happened every few months,
a kind of church service for holiday

Catholics. In that steel cathedral
you preached what you thought
I’d absolutely need: how to cheat

the cylinder inside a lock,
what words undress a virgin,
why I can’t confuse the compass

with the cross and how to blame
heaven if you went to hell.
From the passenger seat of that

stolen Cutlass you were a ruined
simile—the way the back
of an empty tow truck looks

like a crucifix and how in the small
light of that blinking patrol car
you blushed like a martyr

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Train Prayer

by Steven Dawson
Featured Art: Indulge – Felicity Gunn

In Denver all days end standing up
packed like dried fish dry-humping
each other on the H Line. Some
passengers in their drunken wobble
or even in their haze of sobriety
pull down hard on the rubber handles,
the ones meant for standing,
the ones that swing dumbly above
our heads. They think this action
stops the locomotive but the train
is automated, stopping itself
at Broadway then Osage, Lincoln Blvd.
Since the train, as it always does, stops—
the travelers learn to keep tugging
& I can’t help but think this is how
prayer works. Like when I prayed
to a god I don’t believe in that your
morphine drip might soothe the wounds
that chemotherapy would not
& how I swear it worked sometimes
but didn’t others & yet in my drunken
sobriety I believe that it was me
who eased your pain, that it was my
failed pleas that bleached your blood.

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An Oral History of Hands as Told by My Grandmother

by Mercedes Lucero
Featured Art: Seated Youth Writing in Book – Raffaello Sanzio

This all began because Mother was making tortillas. This all began with mothers and kitchens. We live in Crowley, Colorado, or maybe Rocky Ford, Colorado, a place where there are not a lot of doctors. We live in a place where there are always mothers in kitchens and daughters who wait nearby to watch their mothers watch the tortillas.

The year is 1949 or 1950 or 1951. I am nine or ten or eleven and not allowed to touch the stove. We have a wood-burning stove with a large at surface for cooking. I stand on the pile of wood at the edge of the stove to see the tortillas. I like to stand close to watch Mother. Father has a habit of kissing me on the back of the neck and I fall. It is the middle of winter and water from the well is cold.

I want to be like Mother. I have a rolling pin Father made me, small enough to fit inside my hands. Father is always making things with his hands. He makes things for me out of wood. Father has a habit of kissing me on the back of the neck. I am the youngest of nine and they say I am his favorite.

Mother hands me a small mound of dough and I flatten it with my rolling pin. I watch Mother put dough on the stove. I stand on the pile of wood at the edge to see the tortillas. I stand close to watch Mother place dough, perfectly round, on the stove. I am not allowed to touch the stove. Father has a habit of kissing me on the back of the neck and I fall.

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A Fistful of Dirt

by Sujatha Fernandes

Manuel relayed buckets of moist earth to the concrete stairwell. It was Héctor’s job to hoist the buckets up and ferry them over to the dumpster. They had to work quickly to keep the buckets moving or the Bangladeshi contractor, a slight man with a beard, would start yelling at them, “Taratari koro.”
     The workers down below had broken up the existing basement floor of the six-story building with jackhammers and then used pickaxes to pry out the concrete. Now they were excavating eight to ten feet of earth to increase the height of the basement.
     Héctor was grateful to work in the open air instead of underground like a mole with the thick damp air and the artificial light from lamps. It was also safer up here. The men in the basement would dig themselves into three-foot-square holes up to eight-feet deep and there weren’t even any planks of wood to brace the sides. Suddenly someone would look up to see the sides crumbling in on him. He suspected that the contractors didn’t know what they were doing. It was only a matter of time before a worker was buried alive.
     Still, it was regular work, something Héctor hadn’t had in a while. He had spent several months going to the parada on Roosevelt Avenue, getting picked up occasionally for one- or two-day stints in demolition or renovation. He found this job through Jesús, a slim Oaxaqueño, always clean shaven with dimples and a broad smile. Jesús used to talk big on the corner about his influence in the construction world. The men would rib him. “So why are you here at the parada, dumbass?” It didn’t bother Jesús.

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