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


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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.”

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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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