By Kathleen Loe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

that I was the pretty one, instead of her.

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By John Bargowski

I’d already watched him do it a hundred times,
my old man talking me through each step

since I was a young kid, forever warning me
about blow-off, all the hazards

of pressurized air as I stood behind him silently
mouthing: toggle, regulator, output port,

and watched him slide the tap into the spear
of the barrel and lock it down.

So as soon as I’d grown strong enough
to handle a full barrel,

maneuver it around the beer cooler, I followed
him into the basement of the D&J.

I can still hear the rattling compressor kick in,
feel the blast of CO2 sizz past my face,

the ache from the squeeze of his chapped hand
on my shoulder that big day

he shadowed me as I straddled the barrel
then opened the cut-off valve

and let the Rheingold stream through the tubing
to the upstairs spigot.

And after I sopped up spillage from the lip
of the bunghole, tumbled the empty

onto it’s dimpled belly and rolled it out
the double-sealed door into the cellar

then stacked it in a webby corner, I wish
I’d gone back inside, to finish the job,

scratched my name next to his on the rime
coated walls of the walk-in cooler.

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Abu Hani’s Middle Eastern Foods and Gifts

By Sarah Cypher

Kelly took a bookkeeper/handyman job at his friend’s deli. He showed up at Abu Hani’s whitewashed corner shop in East Palo Alto three mornings a week. While Abu Hani prepped the food for the lunch crowd, Kelly squared the receipts and paid the bills. He made sure all the little lights in the deli’s sign were working and stocked the anemic rack of trinkets—hamsa talismans, blue-eye pendants. Then, if Abu Hani was still busy, Kelly sat at the register and charmed customers with his radio-announcer voice. The job, to him, was the most dignified way to hide that his energy was draining fast through the sieve of his sixties.

One morning when he was entering receipts in the side office, he heard a customer talking to Abu Hani. Kelly hovered at the door—he couldn’t place the accent, though its dense consonants were almost familiar. He poked his head around the corner. Over the top of the deli case, the guy looked like any of the old-country Arab geezers who came in for their weekly breakfast olives: that gull-wing hairline gelled back from the brow, hair so silver-bright it made a blurry reflection in the polished deli case. Abu Hani had stopped working and was leaning his bulk on his two hairy fists planted on the counter.

The man noticed Kelly standing there, and he swept up his parcels and exclaimed to Abu Hani, “But you are busy! I am keeping you from your day.” In a last flurry of goodwill, he paid his bill and left.

“New guy?” Kelly asked.

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Upcountry Detour

By Sydney Lea

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

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The hardest part of losing her mother in 2020

By Nancy Miller Gomez

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

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

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

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My Family

By Nancy Miller Gomez

I used to keep old black-and-white photos in my wallet.
They weren’t people I knew, just snapshots of strangers

fished out of a shoebox at a junk store: dark-eyed men
in bomber jackets leaning against muscle cars, or sitting

astride a tractor wearing khakis and an undershirt, a pencil
of mustache above their lip. Women with cat-eyed glasses,

dressed up in feathered hats for a night of gin rickeys,
arms draped across each other’s shoulders and angling

for the camera. Even in grayscale I could see their cheeks
were rouged and their lips were slick with lipstick.

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Cultural Appropriation

By Nancy Miller Gomez

a mi esposo

I appropriate your tongue,
your lips, your teeth, the smooth
inner skin of your cheek.

I appropriate your rolled r’s,
and soft v’s, the way you say
wolf without the letter L

(the plural of which is wooves).
I claim the patch of hair
in the small of your back,

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Siren Song

By Nancy Miller Gomez

A songbird mimicking the sounds
of emergency sirens has been
caught on video . . . —CNN

A starling has taught himself to sing
like an ambulance. Now the air is filled

with emergencies. Whee-o, whee-o, high and low,
a fire truck rides out of a mockingbird’s mouth.

Grackles impersonate police cars. They dive-bomb
the precinct parking lot, bashing their beaks

into the rearview mirrors of their rivals.
The magpie knows a lovely air raid. Now

she trills like a helicopter, next a chain saw,
then an AK-47. The quail stop, drop

and cower. Take-CO-ver they cantillate.
Whee-o, whee-o, high and low. Juncos,

pass to Vireos. Catbirds steal the flow.
The chickadees have gone on lockdown.

They bore like bullets through the bleeding bark
of the cedars. Crows reload from rooftops.

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Watching the Wind

By Roger Mitchell

Featured Art: Wind by Mikhail Gordeevich Deregus

Lift a small shovelful of snow
without a shovel
off the stubborn blanket of it
in the field
and throw it completely away,
quickly, too,
so quickly you couldn’t find it ever
on your hands and knees, calling
out its name,
puff of purest cloud, smoke
of frozen fire,
wind’s breath, you,
with no shovel
and a handful of white air.

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After Petrarch

By Emily Wheeler

A romance developed in my sixtieth year,
which gave me hope, perhaps inane,
surely extreme, especially in my verse,
and affirmed principles of affection and cheer.

My lover was tender, our love serious, useful.
It was as if in the afternoon, gray, crepuscular
an angel had arrived! And we both so secular!
Of course we never spoke of death, its easeful

nest, or the unlikelihood we’d ever alight
together in the tall trees or, quivering,
fly off at the same moment, but that was alright,

because, whenever new or found or at least not lost,
desire adds a drop to the earth’s thousand rivers
and briefly greens the grave, its bed of moss.

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The Missing Poem

By Emily Wheeler

Less a description of a Thanksgiving
I remember than an invitation
to a party that asks many people,
some alive, some dead,
to fill the front hall
of the old house
with such loud joy
at faces long unseen
that few can reach the quieter
fire-lit room at the back
where cheese and bread await,
and raise glasses of the most delicious,
deepest red wine.
No war, no plague, no economic
collapse deflate the mood.
I make a beeline for my favorite aunt
in the corner looking out the window
at the black river. There I join her
bringing the news that the river
doesn’t mean what it used to mean,
now it’s behind her, not ahead.

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Vernal Equinox

By Kari Gunter-Seymour

Featured Art: Equinox by Eugene James McFarland

I’ve been thinking about last times
I never knew were the last—
grandma cooing me unconscious,
daddy whistling me home to supper,
my toddler’s toothless grin, tiny fingers
clenching wildflowers, the last time
I prayed, desperate for those departed,
how they flit ahead of us, flying.

Tonight the Big Dipper balances
on its handle. Tepid tree frogs peep
songs of resurrection. One morning soon,
I’ll eat a good breakfast, fill a water bottle,
pack a book, walk the fencerow into the holler,
rest beneath the eagles’ favored perch,
shake off this inexplicable sadness,
two cinderblocks where lungs ought to be,
let spring hold on to me for a while.

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“When We Talk About Mountains, We Talk About Memories”: a Conversation with Ohio Poet Laureate Kari Gunter-Seymour

New Ohio Review editor, David Wanczyk: I’m speaking today with Kari Gunter-Seymour, a 9th generation Appalachian, and the current Poet Laureate of Ohio. Her new anthology, I Thought I Heard a Cardinal Sing: Ohio’s Appalachian Voices, will be published in March 2022. Kari, welcome. Can you tell us about the project generally and more specifically about your hopes for what it will bring to light about Appalachian poetry?

Kari Gunter-Seymour: I would love to do that, David. My hope is that people will become aware that Ohio is part of Appalachia. Because some people don’t know, and a lot of people forget that a quarter of the state of Ohio rests in Appalachia proper, and there are pockets of Appalachian families throughout Ohio, even in major cities throughout Ohio, that still practice those teachings and learnings from their Appalachian heritage and their culture. And so this book is all about bringing notice to that.

I think of us as being Central Appalachians. With roots deep in South and North. You know we had those who came up during World War II and the Great Depression to find work. To seek out the steel mills. We have to remember there was lots of coal and iron mining in Ohio early on, too. And so this book is specifically my dream of being able to give these voices an opportunity to sing. Because they’re different. We’re a little bit different. We’re more of a mixing pot, I think, here in Ohio, because we are, as we’re finding out, Central. We’re not necessarily North; we’re not necessarily South, but we’re a really good mix of it all.

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