Ode to the Fresh Start

By Susan Blackwell Ramsey

Featured Art: Untitled by Joseph Taylor

Sock drawer with its moth husks, limp mismatches,
____rank refrigerator’s stink of shame, closet
________whose back wall I don’t remember . . .

In Sanskrit abhyasa means practice, discipline,
____not giving up, but starting over
________and over and over again. Just start. Abhyasa.

So when I unroll my yoga mat
____and it promptly rolls back up, I flip it over,
________fling myself down on it, grunt “abhyasa.”

Veteran of fresh starts. I’ve trained myself
____to believe there will be dustless bookshelves,
________push-ups, French refresher courses, kale.

This time will be different. It always is.
____Maybe the trick is shorter and shorter gaps
________between the restarts until they run together,

like rolling out the lawn mower in May,
____working to get a cough, another, three, and with a roar
________it starts again. Once more that green smell rises.


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Entropy

By Elton Glaser

Will this be one more summer spent
Among the ornamental mailboxes and garden gnomes,

As if I’d come down with a dose of lassitude,
Too much muck in the bloodstream?

That’s better, I guess, than a long month in Lubango,
Not far from the hovels and dead dogs,

With something strange steaming in the heat
And a bad case of the squitters,

And no worse, in its own way, than hearing someone
At the next table praise the taste of

Extra virgin truffle oil on the rutabaga fries,
Parsley butter sliding down a bison steak,

When what I crave is cruder: ecstasy of the unraveled,
Loose elations in a rumpled bed.

I’ve got nothing against sampling a farmer’s stand,
All those honeydews nestled in straw

And peaches fat and pink and above reproach,
Or an afternoon rocking on the front porch,

Sipping a tall cool glass of julep and watching
The dappled daze of sunlight on the leaves.

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A Summer Wind, a Cotton Dress

By Kate Fox

A glance held long and a stolen kiss,
This is how I remember you best.
—Richard Shindell

Little fires light themselves in the hearth, like tongues
____of flame that reclaim the Holy Spirit, like pitchforks

in this clapboard house where mayflies swarm and crackle
____against the porch light. On down, a gas station, a five-and-dime,

and your house, which I can see from the kitchen, where
____clothes on the line billow and collapse, billow and collapse.

This small town holds everything I will ever know and have
____to leave behind: bidden and forbidden glances,

voices from the second-floor landing that warn, Go no further.
____Night will fall and you will fall with it. Which is what I want,

for the universe to take up where I leave off, this longing
____so deep it can hold entire planets in its bottomless pocket,

yet shrink to the size of a finger at the hollow of your neck,
____heart drawing blood from the branchwork of your breathing.


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4D

By Jon Fischer

The 3D printer made a man and gave him a beard
to rub thoughtfully. It printed a book on mortality,
a pamphlet on sin, a monograph on time, and many other
fine things to keep in mind. Then it spun out two
of each animal and a boat around them. It printed rain
so long we thought it was broken, then
it printed an olive leaf. Its final act
was to print a 4D printer, which printed a memory
for the man, who said with his rubbery tongue,
I remember there were olive trees,
and he released one of the doves from its cage
below deck, where it spent the time we were given
under the gaze of two housecats and two weasels.
But the 4D printer started to print more
than the time we were given. Weeks rolled off in pairs, still
warm from the furnace of creation,
and wedges of space to move the stars apart
so the man had room to fill the weeks with many
fine things to keep in mind. That’s how we turned the world
into a dream, where time doesn’t know what to do with itself,
and you always end up falling.


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Heron or Plastic Bag

By Jon Fischer

Far off in a vacant field beside an irrigation
canal alights a stately gray heron

or a plastic bag. The plastic bag flaps
and in the tricky light thick clouds leave behind

trembles in and out of translucence,
just like a heron. The heron flew here from another

land in search of a plot to fill and warmly
fulfill and mute the Sisyphean rhythm of restless

creatures’ lives, across countless miles
that would never do, just like a plastic bag.

Close up it’s clear the field holds both
a stately heron and a plastic bag, each

studying the other like figure and reflection.
Now the difference is obvious. The heron’s eyes

recognize the predicament he’s in, the infernal
froglessness of all this wiregrass, the length

of the horizon, the lean of a eucalyptus. Behind
his eyes is the continent where he first

leapt into a crystalline gust, and at beak’s end wriggles
a continent uncharted, fleshly, ready to be snapped up

like a young shad. But this time of year his wings
know everything there is to know about south

and nothing else. Whereas the bag simply is
the predicament it’s in and billows

with all the joy that has ever flown through
a thousand years of wind.


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What the Drawing Explains

By Jon Fischer

It’s hard to describe a drawing of a millennium,
but you know it when you see it

on a sticky note fallen to the speckled tile
near the lockers in a high-school hallway

It’s rendered half of the social commentary
inherent in a peach-colored crayon, half

of ablative carbon fiber and iridium dust,
the artist’s signature a sketch

of the human genome. This millennium is half past,
half future, neither all that great.

The drawing smells like a philosopher’s feet.
It tells a story that rises off the paper

and reads the palms of passersby, turning life lines
jagged and love lines into spirals. It tells a story

that sinks deep inside the paper, seizing
for its fibrous heart the best and most harrowing

plot twists. Nonetheless, the drawing explains
why the Nile changed course, why tornadoes

and the sea found fancier homes,
why we made no new religions

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Spring Reflection

By Stephanie Choi

Featured Art: Scarlet by Joseph Taylor

___You crave
For the wheels to ride across the puddle, muddied
With pebbles & all your past lives too

___You want to find again
That sky blue that’s been shut tight
All winter long

___You don’t know why
When you finally do
The birds mistake each strand of your hair for a branch

___You wish for the pecking to stop
And for the stillness of a bud before blossom
To return to you

___You ask for a taste
Of the warm cold wind on your wet lips
Just once more—

___You try to remember
What everything was like before
But you take a sip from the cup filled with dust
___
& ash, instead


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In the Garden

By Kelly Rowe

Featured Art: Mimic by Dylan Petrea

When you were small,
we lived in a tropical state,
and you spoke fluently
a language only two could understand.

It had one word
for bean or ball or m&m or kiss,
three for water, six for dream
or any other risk.

When we talked, the dog danced on hind legs,
and the house sailed down the river,
waving its red and white flags.
The rain took you wading under the live oaks

and mispronounced your name,
but showered you with opals,
while high in the branches invisible birds
whistled back and forth in code.

Now, you live somewhere else,
I’ve gone a little deaf.
I press the phone to my ear
as your voice cuts out, fades,

and like the last speaker
of a lost language, I grope
for one of the hundred names for river,
or the single shouted syllable: Ma!

Meaning flash flood, meaning ark,
meaning the one we need
no words for, the one who flies to us
when we cry out in the dark.


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Garden Sitting

By Jennifer Dorner

for my mother

Season of moths in the strawberries.
An apple or two fallen from the tree.
Plums not yet ripe, through the cornstalks
are burdened with silk,
the vine tomatoes split,
and the sunflowers track the sun,
a bee in each dark center.

Late to the tasks you left me
I unfold the watering instructions again,
late to harvest the beds circled
on your hand-drawn map.

The evening is a haze,
sheets of starlings stretched
over the mown grass field,
a brush of red beneath
the shadowed tree line.

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How to Peel an Orange

By Stephanie Wheeler

Featured Art: Peeled II by Samantha Slone

The dryer was making a monstrous sound. The repairman stood with his hand resting flat on top.

“I feel the vibration,” he said. He was a fat man with a three-day stubble sprouting in uneven patches on his face. His uniform shirt was belted into his trousers around the front and haphazardly untucked in the back. Hazel could see his milky eyes shifting rapidly through smudged glasses. She hated him a little.

Hazel nodded. “And you can hear it, too.”

He squinted his eyes, then squeezed them tight, concentrating.

Hazel decided that she hated him a lot.

“The grinding sound,” Hazel said, straining to make her voice heard above the din. “It’s quite obvious, really.”

“Ah, yes. The grinding. I hear it.”

Hazel’s cell phone chimed then, and she looked at the screen. The name Walt appeared in white letters, glowing.

“Excuse me,” she told the repairman, “I need to take this.”

He waved her away. “Go ahead. I’ll keep at it, love,” he said.

She looked at him, glared, and considered saying something. Something clever about how he shouldn’t call her love. Who was he to call her love? They’d only just met and he was charging a $100 service fee simply to walk in the door and provide diagnostics on the dryer. The $100 was charged before and apart from the repairs. She didn’t feel any love. But her phone was insistent. Hazel left the laundry room, glanced over her shoulder, and pulled the door tight behind her. She went into the kitchen.

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Raw Numbers

By Jasmine V. Bailey

During his reign, four hundred bears.

On the bloodiest day, twenty-four.

On a hunting trip with friends, staged,

as they all were staged, twenty-two

and eleven for his friends. No one

tallied the boar and deer.

Ceaușescu sitting in his perch above a clearing a gamekeeper chases the bears through,

firing an automatic rifle.

One hundred thirty bears

in those last six years.

Brown bears, grizzlies in our West,

eat mostly plants

but Ceaușescu’s bears ate pellets

fed to them by the gamekeepers

who say they don’t like hunting anymore. 

He will die next to Elena

in December, nineteen eighty-nine, 

the shortest day of the year.

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Ocean City, New Jersey

By Jasmine V. Bailey

I drove to meet you the first day of the year
at a B&B fifteen miles east of my childhood
on the White Horse Pike.
For three mornings we had a German pancake
and three cups of coffee 
with the black-haired innkeeper
whose husband coughed in another room,
whose philodendra vined her walls
and ceilings like a cage.

You led me down the beach that first night 
all the way to Longport Bridge
keeping secret what we were after.
Everything seemed a candidate—
the armor of some crab picked clean,
Polaris beneath the moon
like Marilyn Monroe’s mole.
When we got to the bay
I thought we might swim it.
Your face fell realizing
what we’d come to see was gone,
that you would have to tell 
what you’d brought me there to show.

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All Animals Want the Same Things

By Jeanne-Marie Osterman

Featured Art: “Catpurnia” by Julie Riley

I had a sickly cat whose cure,
said the homeopath, was raw meat 
so I replaced the canned food with scraps 
from the butcher and overnight 
her gingerly eating turned feral devouring.
She’d yowl as I took the jiggling red flesh
from the fridge, pace as I cut it into pieces, 
then suck it down before I could rinse the knife. 

This so exhausted her, she’d lie on the sofa 
for hours before getting up to prey 
on the dustbunnies under my desk. 
While I was watching Shark Tank one night, 
a ball of Kleenex walked across my living room floor. 
It turned out to be a mouse 
who was carrying it to the bookcase 
where she was building a house 
behind my dog-eared copy of Balzac’s Lost Illusions

Seeing the mouse brought my cat back to full health. 
She stalked the tiny creature, crippled it 
with her jaws, sat back to watch it struggle. 
I called the building super and asked him 
to take the mouse away, signing 
the creature’s death warrant. 

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Encore

By Maura Faulise

Featured Art: “I Feel Like Pieces” by E’Lizia Perry

Pulling out of Dingle Bay 
in the rental van that rainy day 
after singing to the tunes 
of the fiddle player in the family pub, 
my father drove red-faced 
and under the influence 
of what I now know 
was nostalgia 
for the affair he’d just ended 
before flying us over the ocean
to kiss the Blarney Stone. 
He mumbled her name at the wheel,
and something about O’Shaughnessy’s
fine music and the fountain of tears
and the Celtic rain.
When the van slid off the road
and into a field of peat, he punched
the gas to get us out
but the wheels stuttered in the cold mud.
Unconcerned with our fate,
we four kids sat stiff
in the backseat, doe-eyed
and glued to the rhythm
of our mother’s timorous noises.

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Heels

By Justin Rigamonti

With a bouquet
of ferns
and lemon
yellow roses,
she looks
incandescent
in the dug-up
photo of
“the time I
got married
the first time.”

Meaning,
pain followed
hot on this
happy woman’s
heels. Meaning,
don’t think
her life has
hummed along
luminously
ever since.

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Anne Lester

By Emma Aylor

Sleeping it off last night I dreamed I had one lung.
The other next to me in bed dark and putting
off smoke.                      When you were young
I passed my Virginia Slim so you wouldn’t get
the taste for it: I remember standing in the kitchen
lighting it up                                        for my girl.
You never did smoke after that. In front of the TV
last night I spilled the whole drink down my shirt
          a little in this world                                    a little in the other.

I’ve been Anne Moore for most of my life.
My last morning as Lester I looked
like Liz Taylor’s sister                        hair dark and glossed.
It’s hard to remember myself like that.
I depend on a picture to know I was beautiful –

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Mt. Athos

By Emma Aylor

Featured Art: “Skin ‘N’ Bones” by Arianna Kocab

1936-2013

My granny died facedown in the kitchen
of the isolate house: atop a hill named for ruins
of a burned plantation near, whose owner was rumored
to be buried standing so he could continue to survey
the land from his summited tomb, up a lick
off Opossum Creek, itself off a bend

in the body of the James. A stroke. And grandpop
made a big show of never looking at her face
again; he said he couldn’t overlap his memory;
he let her lay crashed in her own bones until help came, 
let her face settle into its death with no witness,
and I don’t know where her ash was scattered
after that, if it was, the memorial just a party in the house without
her around – a body never really there – and closing night

for my grandfather’s fifty-eight-year claim
to a good marriage. I took a train from New York
down through Virginia, eight hours marked
at intervals by the crumbling backs of Newark,
Baltimore, Washington, Charlottesville – 
to Lynchburg. At one stretch, hard pink spray paint over
a whole swatch of dry grass. To tell the truth,

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We Don’t Die

Featured Art: “Candid Sampler” by Amy Pryor

Winner of the NORward Prize for Poetry; selected by a panel of past contributors

By Darius Simpson

we second line trumpet through gridlock traffic.
we home-go in the back of cadillac limousines. we
wake up stiff in our sunday best. we move the sky.
we escape route the stars. we moonlit conspiracy
against daytime madness. we electrify. we past
due bill but full belly. we fridge empty. we pocket
lint. we make ends into extensions. we multiply
in case of capture. we claim cousins as protection.
we extend family to belong to someone, we siblings
cuz we gotta be. we chicken fry. we greased scalp. we
hog neck greens. we scrape together a recipe outta scraps.
we prophecy. we told you so even if we never told you nothin.
we omniscient except in our own business. we swallow a
national anthem and spit it out sweet. make it sound like
red velvet ain’t just chocolate wit some dye. we bend lies.
we amplify. we laugh so hard it hurts. we hurt so quiet we
dance. we stay fly. we float on tracks. we glide across
linoleum like ice. we make it look like butter. we melt
like candle wax in the warmth of saturday night liquor sweat.
we don’t die. we dust that colonies couldn’t settle. we saltwater
city built from runaway skeletons. we organize. we oakland in ’66.
we attica in ’71. we ferguson before and after the camera crews we
won’t die we won’t die we won’t die we won’t die we won’t


Darius Simpson is a writer, educator, performer, and skilled living room dancer from Akron, Ohio. His work has appeared in The Adroit Journal, American Poetry Review, Crab Creek Review, and others. Darius believes in the dissolution of empire and the total liberation of all Africans by any means necessary.

Originally appeared in New Ohio Review 29.

Albuquerque Sunrise

By Ashley Hand

Sometimes I was Melissa. Other times I was Alexis, or Estelle. One night I was Shelby because we’d just watched a Pierce Brosnan movie where he drove a 1967 Shelby GT. By the end of the night the name felt natural and you were slinging an arm around my shoulder and calling me Shelbs. You were always yourself. You were Mac. I wore wigs. I wore peel-and-stick nails. I did elaborate makeup. One night in October we went to the Albuquerque balloon festival and wandered around at dark on the fringe of the crowd, watching the torches gas up into the hollows of the parachutes like they were big paper lanterns, and I was made up in the spirit of Día de los Muertos, a pompadour of blood-red roses that we’d trimmed from the yard crowning my head, and we held hands in public and my face was stiff from paint but I felt like a queen gliding through the stalls of the outdoor fair in my black bodysuit, unrecognized. It smelled like roasted corn and the grass was wet from a rain and the night was warm and it felt like we were free. 

At first we stayed in all the time. We played gin rummy and did crossword puzzles and had sex. We grilled on the patio for dinner. In the evenings we would drink wine and the house was quiet and we would listen to Taps play out over loudspeakers across the Air Force base and watch the last vestiges of violet light disappear behind the wall of cypress trees that blocked out the power lines and concrete buildings. After the final peals of the bugle call, the clicking of the cicadas would resume. We’d slick our legs and necks with bug spray and light a citronella candle and share a cigarette. We talked politics and books. We played mancala and cribbage. I’d tell you stories from my childhood and you’d pet my hair and tell me my father was a bastard.

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Prayer to Mercury

By Justin Jannise

The moon, full the night before he died.
The neighbor’s old golden retriever approached the cyclone fence,
sat and watched the nurses enter and leave,
turned silver
in moonlight, and howled
its long, sad howl.

Fourth-of-July gunshots echoed through morning.
The pact I’d made to keep myself at home glued to the phone’s abrupt news
wavered,
and I allowed a man in
where I vowed no god, after you, would enter.

Your planet in retrograde,
twisting letters around:

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