YMCA Aqua Zumba Substitute Teacher

Gaby Bedetti

In the water we natter about trips and surgeries,

until a newcomer in sweats and a ball cap circles

the pool and distracts us from our prattle.

 

We watch in wonder as he steps out of his clothes,

a David statue in swim trunks. Furtive sea turtles,

we turn to each other, look back at him, look away.

 

Our teacher joins us, a figure of perfection come to life.

He shows how to lead with our hips. Our shuffles turn

into grapevines as we watch his shoulders shimmying.

 

Synchronized swimmers, we turn the pool into a rollin’ river,

ten times enabled, we boost ourselves up out of the water,

aqua Zumba boot camp dolphins trilling in disbelief.

 

For the cooldown, Whit sings spirituals in a deep

bass, “Oh, Shenandoah, away, we’re bound away”

and counts the final seconds down on his fingers.

 
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Gaby Bedetti married a poet she met at a literature conference in Louisville, and together they raised a couple of kids. Henri Meschonnic's American translator, she has published in such journals as Off the Coast, Italian Americana, The Voices Project, and Poet Lore. For the past four years she has written a poem a day in June for her town’s poetry blog http://lexpomo.com/. When she is not teaching at Eastern Kentucky University, she hikes, takes photos, plants trees, and sings in several choirs.


 
 

Headless Angel

Bill Brown

My wife tried to glue the head

back on, but it’s concrete and keeps

 

falling off. The cat tries to roll it around

the porch floor. We bought it for

 

the garden to honor our dead mothers,

but when the head fell off, we couldn’t—

 

so it sits with the uneven chipped neck,

kneeling with little hands folded

 

in prayer, wings nestled on its back.

I thought to bury her, but can’t.

 

My mother used to quote, angels from

above watch over those we love.

 

This morning I put the head on a garden brick

so it can watch tulips bloom. I place

 

a cap on it to shield eyes from the sun.

I’m beginning to like this new version

 

of Winged Victory, tiny headless child.

My wife painted its toenails bright red,

 

its wings, purple. Calvin said everyone

of us has thousands of angels attending,

 

but give me this little concrete beauty,

her head among flowers, her squat form

 

always in prayer.

 
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Bill Brown is the author of ten poetry collections and a textbook. New work appears or is forthcoming in Tar River, Atlanta Review, Potomac Review, Worcester Review, Evening Street Review, Cumberland River Review, Louisville Review, Southern Poetry Review, and Columbia University Journal, among others.


You Say You're On Autopilot to the Hospital

Kaneia Crumlin

You know

how it feels

to live with the dying,

to listen to the dripping

of their breath

 

You watch reruns

with your aunt in

your family room. Her

barely in a lilac robe--body

humming, eyes glazed. You

wait for her memory

 

to return if for an hour where

you two could live before her

nurse became her hands and

feet and the left and right hemis-

pheres of her,             memory is

here and there

 

You remember her

as mother—the constant

ear, arm, voice: sound

judgment, balm. You stay

close, watching rerun

rerun              rerun watch her,

ravished in her body--

puffy and numb.

 
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Kaneia Crumlin is a native Washingtonian who still lives in Washington, DC with her hubs, Chandler, and their two cubs, Britton (2.5yrs-old) and Elle (16mos). She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from American University and enjoys the daily adventure of being a work-at-home-mom. She can be reached at kmcreativeconsulting@gmail.com.


Lithosphere

James Davidson

He greets me with a beguiling smile

& the scent of patchouli spiked

with cinnamon, with soft fingers

 

that trace the topography

of my forearms, with his long brown

hair — free & loose — cascading

 

onto my shoulders as his arms engulf

me. He is a chestnut tree

dropping nuts and hints

 

after which I scurry.

But he is less like a tree. His tall body

moves steady like a mountain —

 

no concern for time as it glides

with the lithosphere shifting

over the core of a mysterious world —

 

blue eyes reflecting

the currents of my oceanic body.

& my mind dips into fantasy

 

of our tectonic plates pressing,

crumbling at our jagged edges,

forming our own Pangea

 

populated by cedar waxwing,

black-crowned night heron,

honeybees — a flutter

 

of monarchs migrating south

from Iowa —

Fairfield to Angangueo —

 

my navel a cup plant,

pooling his sacred wetness —

reflecting the light of the moon

 

in our cloudless night sky.

 
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James R. Davidson is a poet and activist living in Fairfield, Iowa. His style exemplifies a metamodern approach to transcendentalism — a style from which he explores the intersections of queerness, spirituality, and ecology. James is a BFA in Creative Writing student at Maharishi University. He is also the founding editor-in-chief of the university's literary magazine, Metafore.


Bite It

Shelby Dale DeWeese

The product I remember

was maybe called Don’t

Bite It, bright red

circle, line slashing

through, silhouette

of a fingernail with one

jagged nick off the tip.

Every morning a fresh coat

supposed to Pavlov me.

I wish I hated the taste of Bite It more

than I relished the splintering, the growing dots

of copper on my tongue.

A friend noticed the crescent

on my chin, but didn’t know

about the neat piles on my bedside table,

bookshelf, kitchen counter.

Keratin collections,

slivers of myself

tongue-flicked from between teeth,

victorious.

 
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Shelby Dale DeWeese grew up on a farm in Kentucky, but currently lives and writes in California. She earned her MFA at the University of San Francisco, and her poems have appeared in such publications as Jet Fuel Review, Rust + Moth, and Rag Queen Periodical. When she's not writing, she and a former pirate captain encourage elementary school students to write original stories at 826 Valencia. Find her online at shelbydaledeweese.com.


Meeting

Shannon Dougherty

After the climb out of the creekbed's shade,

this clearing brimming with late light,

the city's jagged skyline, islanded in a sea of trees,

the wind scouring the grass,

the distant freeway's flowing.

A helicopter is a dragonfly

I am a breath

Until like a mountain range

always there, knowing of me before I noticed them,

three whitetail in the tall grass are watching.

Light pours through their alert ears and runs off their backs.

They can hear my heart

felling tree trunks.

 

Knowing no other way

except for one of us to yield,

the deer move first. Hooves driving

into the ground, they heave themselves

higher up the trail.

The trees take them.

 
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Shannon Dougherty is a poet living in Corpus Christi, on the Texas Gulf Coast. She has lived in Dallas, Austin, Arizona, and Montana and received degrees in English and creative writing from SMU and the University of Texas at Austin. In her years of writing (and not writing) she has published poetry, fiction, and academic prose. She has been an editor, book buyer, library reference clerk, and preschool teacher. Her work has appeared in Acorn, Modern Haiku, and The Chaffin Journal.


Fish-woman: The Daughter of a Fisherman's Son

Courtney DuChene

My father searched for fish

when the water flooded out of my mother’s vagina

to make way for my squealing breaths.

 

I came into the world thrashing like the

fish on my grandfather’s butchering block.

my limbs were walleye, perch, and sunfish

flailing for their lives as

the knife came down on their gills.

 

And my father, who watched their

Shrivelled, purple asphyxiation, he

dunked me in the bathtub.

He taught my lips to purse until

Bubbles formed and I could

Breeeeeeaaaaaath.

 

My childhood was a wave

breaking laughter white capped on shores

Squeals of father and daughter

We scoured the lake bed for

Clam shells which he split flushed

And bubblegum for the hook snared

Mouths of fish like me who couldn’t be

Contained to the bridled black pebbles of the water’s belly.

 

As I grew, he used the lips of

Conch shells to swallow my acumen--

Novels, fossils, musical scales

As I threatened to flood his dry world

Of ships shoved into bottles, never sailed.

I couldn’t remain captive with his tchotchkes.

Even when he built a rim of sandbags--

the helm of his Viking ship.

I swallowed them whole.

 

Left him shipwrecked

With the ruins of the Titanic, the Edmund Fitzgerald.

There are no survivors when the operas of

mermaids and sirens bloom with fall magnolias.

 
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Courtney DuChene is a screenwriter, poet, and fiction writer from Moorhead, MN. She has been previously published in the anthologies, America’s Best Emerging Poets, Minnesota's Best Emerging Poets, and Pennsylvania's Best Emerging Poets,The Blue Route, and The Lantern: Ursinus College's Literary Magazine. She is also the recipient of the Ursinus College Creative Writing Award, the Alfred L. Creager Prize in Creative Writing, and a 2015 Scholastic Arts and Writing Award Gold Medal.


Chickadee

Madeleine Gallo

This afternoon I spotted a chickadee within a magnolia leaf,

her small body curved inside the green gondola

— fetus to mother.

 

I thought how much she resembled a banana's innards,

and how delightful it would be to unpeel that waxy thickness

and behold her hidden, singing form.

 

But next I thought how you will probably say this is phallic,

and so I keep my vision to myself, for other minds,

maybe.

 

Nothing phallic here,

bird on leaf

song in shell.

 
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Madeleine Gallo is currently a first year MA student at Wake Forest University. Her work has appeared in Susquehanna Review: Apprentice Writer, Fermata, Sun and Sandstone, Belle Reve Literary Journal, The Pylon, Sigma Tau Delta Review, Into the Void, Litro, and Rattle. After graduation, she plans to pursue a PhD in Contemporary American Poetry.


A Wild West Texas Wind

John Garmon

And now you send

Through dislodged thistle

Messages of forlorn gods

Who rode the fenceless plains.

 

This long shot of retribution

From pioneers who murdered

Native Americans to win this

Language of landscape of desert

Where the wealthy flourish.

 

See their Winnebago caravans

In convoy moving up the freeways

From Houston to Dallas from tomorrow

To yesterday and all the way back

To Cochise and Geronimo.

 

A wild west Texas wind blows

Through barren buffalo grass

Made holy by prairie dogs

This far east of El Paso.

 

Texas has crossed New Mexico,

Amarillo is invading San Antonio.

The wind is blowing hard and hot

In mid-July in dusty sunshine.

 

Out between Odessa and Midland

The stench of methane whistles

Through barbed wire and odors

Of cow chips blow past oil pumps.

 

We are all driving long straight

Highways through unpeopled plains,

Watching for circling carrion fowl

To keep moving toward blue mountains.

 
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A writing assistant at the College of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas, John Garmon's poems have been in Southern Poetry Journal, Southern Humanities Review, Radius, Commonweal, Paradise Review, Prairie Schooner, Quartet, Ploughshares, and other places.


The Half Shell Floats on

Its Yellow Yolk

Lois Harrod

In the middle of a night

more like an iron skillet than a watch

the egg cracks.

 

You do not know

where you are or how you came.

 

The half shells float on their double yolks.

For two hours you cannot remember

anything I say.

 

Later the doctor calls it an episode,

transient ischemic attack, TIA.

 

Tests show nothing,

your heart healthy as a hearse,

the king reprieved.

 

When I tell a colleague

she says last night she also woke suddenly,

 

what was it?

She thought firecracker, she thought stroke.

I thought white . . . separated from yolk.

 
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Lois Marie Harrod’s 16th and most recent collection Nightmares of the Minor Poet appeared in June 2016 from Five Oaks. She is continually published in literary journals and online ezines from American Poetry Review to Zone 3. Visit her online work at www.loismarieharrod.org


Widow

James Croal Jackson

Every night Mom drowns

in loud T.V. next to dusty organ bloomed

with old portraits. Family’s

 

family, including things:

the security system greets her

when returning from the store.

 

The red carpet, the torn couch,

the gunky dishwasher. Coming home

from work through a sea of dark Ohio

 

into a reverberating house of off-white

rooms so silent the garage door screams

shut. The floors don’t creak, they wail

 

and faucets cry. A cabinet full

of Cabernet. A corkscrew hangs,

rusted at the hinge.

 
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James Croal Jackson is the author of The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). His poetry has appeared in Columbia Journal, Hobart, FLAPPERHOUSE, and elsewhere. He edits The Mantle from Columbus, Ohio. Find more at jimjakk.com.


Jazz Poem for My Mother

Clyde Kessler

1

My mother feels the jazz this morning

among the white and pink spider flowers.

They host sweat bees and one fritillary

sunning at the edge. It’s a living music

sounded into the ground. It draws her near.

 

Down past the spring branch, she hears

a thrush chittering to weeds. It names her

almost like the way she named me, almost

like shadows inside a song. Trees dissolve.

Katydids begin slurring the summer clouds.

 

2

If trees dissolve, if trees,

she learns late their names, their flowers.

If the trumpet of the Lord sounds, if it sounds,

the flowers sound their own colors.

Bees huddle in their hive, in their dissolving tree.

 

Spirit nears the body, silence draws it.

Music opens the distance. Singing opens it.

Down past the river cane, she hears heaven.

Music closes the distance. Singing closes it.

 
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Clyde Kessler lives in Radford, Virginia with his wife Kendall and their son Alan. A long while back they added an art studio to their house and named it Towhee Hill. In 2017, Clyde's book of poems Fiddling At Midnight's Farmhouse was published by Cedar Creek. Kendall illustrated the book.


Mountain I

David Krausman

He writes

“mountain”

upside down

on his back.

“When I die,”

he jokes,

“bury me like

this.” He agrees.

The earth agrees.

He presses arms

and chest flat

against ground

where the mountain

would be. He feels

the purities of the

earth evaluating

his pressure potential.

Feet out, heels up

fourty-five degree

angles, he feels

dirt wedge into

his toes. “When I die,

bury me like this.”

 
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David Krausman was born and raised in southern California where he found poetry in the depths of an engineering university. He went on to receive his MFA in Poetry from Chapman University, where he currently works supporting Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.


Pachelbel's Canon in D

Pat Kuras

“But I’ve never seen you there,”

people would say

when I told them

I worked at the gay bookstore.

It was because I

worked in the cellar

among the mailbags

and packing table

doing mail order,

domestic and foreign.

It was the Spring and,

after four years with Barb,

we were parting.

Hunched down in the cellar,

I told Skip,

“I don’t think I can

hold it together today.”

And Skip just stayed by me,

calm and steady.

I packed a huge order

for Denmark while

Skip did the UPS

and the radio played

the most tranquil piece,

a few notes repeating

over and over and I knew

Skip knew classical music,

so I asked him

what was the name of it.

He cocked his head

to the radio playing low

and, listening a moment,

he had a tender look

like maybe he could see

some place safe

where we could be.

 
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Pat M. Kuras has published poetry in Crab Creek Review, Nerve Cowboy, Prison Renaissance and Writing In A Woman's Voice. Her poetry books are: HOPE: NEWFOUND CLARITY (2015) and INSOMNIAC BLISS (2017), both from IWA Publishing Services.


Staining the Canvas

MarE Leonard

After blood runs down my legs,

Mom says, "You have your friend,"

hands me a pad to hook around my waist.

 

At MOMA, Rothko's rectangle bleeds,

dancing like a free spirit

toward a yellow one.

 

I call my period my friend but she

betrays me, running

beyond the tampon, dirtying my life.

 

Rothko worked by staining the canvas,

layering, creating ephemeral poetry.

 

"You're a woman now, "Mom says,

"Women bleed the first time

they make love."

 

I need to write tragic poetry

nothing ephemeral, shocking narratives,

street girls, sluts lifting skirts, starving for sex.

 

On a Rothko site, I click on a canvas,

pretend to sprawl on a solitary bench,

stare straight up, watch blocks of red, orange

a mirage, appearing out of no where

 

Rothko's white rectangle moves like a cloud

bleeding into a cobalt blue sky

Something, some thing inside, made me cry.

 

The people who weep before my paintings

have the same religious experience

I had when I painted them.

 

Pregnant with my first child, I bleed

all over the bathroom floor,

My baby dead in a moment, the nurse says,

It's for the best.

 

The doc scrapes my uterus

so I bleed and bleed.

Down the hall, newborns cry.

 

Rothko told journalists,

he moved to the city

to bum around and starve a bit.

 

I try to starve     no toast,

no soup   no triple layer cake.

Leave me the fuck alone.

 

I click  on a Rothko,

get lost in the luminous,

moving, bleeding shapes.

 

Read about his suicide: Rothko

found in his cavernous studio,

in a pool of blood 6 x 10 wide.

 

He heard no bird songs, no train whistles,

left no note. A friend asked,

How can a friend do this to a friend?

 

My baby dead, I want to pull

the wires from my arms,

leave no note, see no friends,

 

Wear only my white hospital gown

like wings to fly.

 
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Mare Leonard lives in an old school house overlooking The Rondout Creek. Away from her own personal blackboard, she teaches through the Institute for Writing and Thinking and the MAT program at Bard College. She has published four chapbooks of poetry and a new one, The Dark Inside the Hooded Coat, will be published shortly at Finishing Line Press.www.mareleonard.com


Sometimes the Birds

Marissa McNamara

At our friends’ country house for a night,

we played cards and talked about next year’s

Christmas party as though the port in your chest

 

wasn’t there, as though your future was as certain

as ours. I woke early the next morning,

sat on their wrap-around porch, head bent

to my pen and paper, the distant hum

 

of an early mower or maybe a farmer

plowing his field in the background.

The song was warm and summer, and my eye caught

a quick flash dance around the hanging pots

 

of Fuschia, their shocking pink and ecstatic purple,

and there they were, the liquid green

hummingbirds, not the mowers or the farmers,

but these little bits of whirring joy that drink from flowers.

 
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Marissa McNamara teaches English composition and creative writing at Georgia State University and in local Atlanta prisons. She is also a contributing poetry editor for The Chattahoochee Review. Her work has appeared in several publications, including the anthologies On Our Own and My Body My Words and the journals RATTLE, Assisi, Melancholy Hyperbole, StorySouth, Future Cycle, The Cortland Review, and Amsterdam Quarterly. Marissa lives in Atlanta with her three crazy dogs, one very patient boyfriend, and a flock of pink plastic flamingos.


The Semester

Heather McNaugher

Mondays, 16 of them, I watch Roxy and Kayla fall in love.

In the workshop’s half-moon, they are outerlimits—

farthest away but acutely across from each other, the better to touch

without touching. I remember Carson, the twin bed,

the wild adolescent catastrophizing: would you rather

spend forever in separate rooms but able to talk? Or

in the same room permitted only to touch? Always

some imperial hand letting and not letting. Always

the red alert of forever. I have to speak up

and occasionally wave my arms against the roar

of their orbit. When we read Kayla’s poems

it is Roxy nodding gravely, Roxy rooting for them sagely, Roxy

for whom this will go badly. For Kayla’s is the throat,

lithe and invincible, of a new woman newly accustomed

to devotion from the big-sneakered Roxies of the world.

Kayla’s yogic knees push black denim to bursting,

her bird hand skipping the waves of her hair. Roxy brightens

to the roots of her ponytail. Returns next year without it.

 
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Heather McNaugher is the author of System of Hideouts and two poetry chapbooks, Panic & Joy and Double Life. She teaches at Chatham University, where she is poetry editor of The Fourth River.


Genetics

Jessica Mehta

My mother told me I was a sociopath

because You don’t like touching, unable

to imagine it was her musky skin,

dust-dry lips that made me shrink.

She’d slap my head and demand

kisses on lips—even in Kindergarten

I had a fathoming

of what incest was. Burned something

fierce when I spiraled my father’s

oiled hair into two spikes

and said, I’m making you

horny. How does a child know

such things, isn’t shame

learned or is it something seedy

and genetic? Like my mandibular

tori, bone growths

filling my mouth like cement, but still

 

unable to stop the fattening

and the disgraces falling out.

 
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Jessica (Tyner) Mehta is a Cherokee poet and novelist. She’s the author of seven collections of poetry including the forthcoming Savagery, the forthcoming Constellations of My Body, the forthcoming Drag Me Through the Mess, as well as Secret-Telling Bones, Orygun, What Makes an Always, and The Last Exotic Petting Zoo as well as the novel The Wrong Kind of Indian. She’s been awarded numerous poet-in-residencies posts, including positions at Hosking Houses Trust and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Paris Lit Up in France, and the Acequia Madre House in Santa Fe, NM. Jessica is the recipient of a Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in Poetry. She is the owner of a multi-award winning writing services business, MehtaFor, and is the founder of the Get it Ohm! karma yoga movement. Visit Jessica’s author site at www.jessicatynermehta.com.


To My Father / For His Other Family

(After Ocean Vuong)

Steve Merino

Dad, don’t be afraid.

We are a people of lakes & spinning rivers.

We know how to hold what won’t speak.

 

Look, our eyes

have seen different scars, but

 

I still move like the ghosts

haunting

what we are afraid to say.

 

No, we don’t have a common language.

Someday, perhaps, we will find it

searching in mom’s garden, lodged in some scrapyard muffler.

 

Once, before you met my mother,

you were in love.

 

Had a whole family before ours where you must

have enjoyed happy days

& now as if something of only dream,

completely forgotten.

 

Ok, I don’t want to believe what I come from:

you left

 

& I’m trying not to live in your mistakes, but

 

something inside me was always broken.

 

Do you understand? You cried when your mother died

but not theirs. Didn’t attend the funeral.

 

How I never want to feel so much

ambivalence and yet I already do.

 

I close my eyes and think of my half-brother

waiting for you to call on his birthday. Close

my eyes & keep hearing revolving doors.

 

From you, I learned to praise the absence of being there,

the weight of silence in a throat.

From them,

I learned to praise the art of holding on.

 

If you seek forgiveness, I

am not the place to start. I have my own to seek.

 

Where to begin?

This river only ever

 

keeps going. How it is always November in

my wrists

 

& you: every road out of town.

 

Quick. Have these constellations changed

since you last taught their stories?

 

Surely not, but the riding mower

sounds like it could use

more oil.

 

This poem is my way of saying I recognize

we are the same & you

don’t have to do this alone.

Maybe you will never be forgiven.

 

Maybe I

won’t either. If you imagine how days

 

keep running until they don’t, maybe

try running too. Wounds can be

another way of cleansing.

 
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Steve is a poet and essayist living in Saint Paul, MN where he is a candidate in Hamline University's MFA program and a poetry editor for Red Bird Chapbooks. 


 

Things I Never Said to My Father 

Kendra Mills

In August, the fairground still teems

with wayward children

and blue smoke

and great shouts of living,

haunting me

because everyone knows your name.

My name too, but don’t worry—

I like being your daughter

and this place echoes of you.

This week, our farmer’s market neighbor,

of Indian Head coins

and blue-boxed, dusty potatoes,

gave me black eyed susans—

they’re in the pitcher

we used when you gave us lilacs,

white and purple,

which smelled like nothing but bliss.

By the way, butterfly bush is still

one of my favorite flowers,

I’ve never found anything that smells so good.

I don’t think you ever read my poetry

and I wish you could have,

because I’m only getting better,

as a poet,

and a person too,

I like to think.

You knew me best at four,

when I had dandelion fluff for hair

and smiles that split my face open,

like a tomato in the rain.

I’m proud that you learned

to use the computer

but more importantly, I’m sorry

I only emailed you

in the month before you died.

It wasn’t hard

and I should have done it sooner.

 
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Kendra Mills grew up on the island of Martha's Vineyard and graduated from the American University of Paris in 2017. Her poetry has been published in Glacial Erratic, Junto Magazine, and the Flagler Review.


Magnolia

Daniel Pravda

leaves don't prissy whisper

or twitter. they cluck. they rev

like an old engine in spring.

ever rake them things? like

sweeping hot cookies. like

bad kids at a museum. like

grease burnt to a pan.

the fine china of forest canopy.

add her buttery flowers

and aroma hypnosis,

and you got yourself

one dangerous swamplady.

 
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Daniel Pravda is a teacher, musician and hiker. His work has recently appeared in Aji, American Dissident, Apricity, Cedar Creek Review, Dead Mule, Jazz Cigarette, Hamilton Stone Review, Poetica, and Vine Leaves. He teaches at Tidewater Community College in Chesapeake, VA and also fronts a band called The Dunes (www.thedunes.us).


Now That I Live Among the Baboons

Penelope Schott

Now that I live among the baboons,

 

a black river divides days from days. It floats away

what I have failed to do.

 

The black river mocks my housekeeping. Hooligan baboons

leap crocodile to log.

 

They swipe the ripest fruit along the bank. Often they pelt me

with seeds and husks.

 

The river doesn’t remember my father. The dreams it carries

are rudderless.

 

And yet I discover,

as it flows past baboons on its prodigal way home,

 

that this living river travels freighted with stars.

 
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Penelope Scambly Schott's most recent books are BAILING THE RIVER and SERPENT LOVE: A MOTHER-DAUGHTER EPIC. Forthcoming is HOUSE OF THE CARDAMOM SEED.

 

 


What My Mother Might Have Done

Carla Schwartz

The rhody babies sprout where they want,

where I never walk,

but where a meter reader might step

on them, alongside the house.

 

They are shin-high, but sturdy,

the deep green of seaweed,

proud, small replicas of their mother,

a single, bud poised to bloom.

 

My mother would have moved the offspring,

carved a careful hole around each new plant

and dug. The rhododendron branches

must have layered themselves.

 

You must wait until sufficient roots have grown

to untether them. Would my mother have known this?

Would she have severed the ties

before the saplings were strong enough?

 
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Carla Schwartz is a poet, filmmaker, photographer, and blogger. Her poems have appeared in Aurorean, ArLiJo, Eyedrum Periodically, Fourth River, Fulcrum, Bluefifth, Common Ground, Cactus Heart, Leveler, Long Island Review, Mom Egg, Submittable, Switched-on Gutenberg, Gyroscope, Mojave River, Naugatuck River, Paddock, Solstice, SHARKPACK, Triggerfish, Sweet Tree, Varnish, Weatherbeaten, and Ibbetson Street, among others. Her poem Gum Surgery was anthologized in City of Notions, A Boston Poetry Anthology. Her second collection of poetry, Intimacy with the Wind, is available from Finishing Line Press or Amazon.com. Find her debut collection, Mother, One More Thing (Turning Point, 2014) on Amazon.com. Her CB99videos youtube channel has 1,700,000+ views. Learn more at carlapoet.com, or wakewiththesun.blogspot.com or find her @cb99videos.


Dark and Light 

Roseann St. Aubin

The light over the old oven

is not strong enough

for her to read by.

It is 3 a.m. and

she is at the table that is

piled with fat tomatoes,

round as rosary beads.

She prays.

Soft is her Hail Mary.

Sharp are the shadows

that cut the kitchen

like a cake of dark and light.

If she could sleep this

would also be her dream.

One where she is caught

between what must be

and what she wants.

A dream where her mother visits,

sits near her at the table,

but does not speak.

There would be tomatoes but

then there would also be a knife

its edge gleaming in the light.

 
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Roseann St.Aubin is a freelance writer, poet and master gardener living in Port Washington, Wisconsin. She had careers in journalism, city government and school public relations before retiring in 2012. Her work has been celebrated by the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, the Lakefly Writers Conference and has appeared in the Blue Heron Review. Roseann is working on her first chapbook. She is on Twitter @portgirl803 and on Instagram as roseannstaubin.


On the Third Day

Paige Szmodis

I only believe in god

when it snows—

 

when silvery sheets crust

over the heavens and earth

and my buried memories whisper

from flurries knocking at frigid panes

 

about sledding at my grandmother’s farm

on the hill, descending down

on a rickety wooden sled

with slicing silver blades through

snowy blankets, crashing

through corn husks

peaking bitter heads out

from artic windows to snap

at our heels.

 

I forgave the corn carcasses

and the icy claws, grasping at

my boots when I climbed

back up the hill.

I took communion

with the cold wafers

that drifted, landing

accidentally

on my tongue—

the evaporated

snow ascended

to heaven.

 

And on the third day,

I rose again

from the white pillows

of a boy who is warm

but won’t melt away

my frozen touch,

who resurrects my skating memories

from weathered barns and

brown stone farm homes.

 

In warm snowy sheets, we exchange

the communion of snowflakes,

we forgive the corn husks,

and resurrect our

bodies, everlasting.

 
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Paige Szmodis is a writer from Bethlehem, PA and recent graduate from Ursinus College with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Gender & Women's Studies with a minor in Creative Writing. At Ursinus, her work has been previously published in The Lanternliterary magazine.


Love Poem for Anne Sexton

Daryl Sznyter

I, too, have been asked why I’m always grieving,

have been told to shed the red lipstick and haltered

dresses, to stop being so fucking weird around dinner

guests. I fell in love with you, Anne, one February

more than a decade ago. My own poems began

as prayers for your wellness. Like you, I’ve always felt

far from God, but if I believe in anything, I believe

in wellness. I take my kill-me pills like a good girl,

drawing strength from you when they make me sick

and flatten my voice and my sex and my once-liberated

eyes. Even my womanness is a half-thing, Anne,

as you well know what they say about pills and stillbirths,

pills and defects, pills and hormones, and poisoned breast milk.

When I lapse into those trances we share, I, too, derive joy

from suicide fantasies with household objects. The use

of tablecloth as noose or sink as river are pornographies

to me on my most airless days. It is my love of you, Anne,

that keeps me prisoner aboveground. I want to get better

to make you proud in the way a mother celebrates her

daughter’s birthday each year, awestruck over and over

that something so vicious came from her soft belly.

 
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Daryl Sznyter is the author of Synonyms for (OTHER) Bodies (New York Quarterly Books). Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and has been published or is forthcoming in Harpur Palate, Poet Lore, Folio, Gravel, Phoebe, Best American Poetry Blog, and elsewhere. She received her MFA from The New School. She currently resides in Northeastern Pennsylvania, where she works as an SEO Analyst. To learn more, visit darylsznyter.com. facebook: facebook.com/darylsznyterpoet author central: amazon.com/author/darylsznyterpoet


Hair Cut

Matthew Vetter

Always I want to remember us this way:

 

your blade poised above my head,

me in a chair you’ve taken from the kitchen

and dragged into the back yard.

 

Silence, now, enough to hear

the snip, snip, snip of your scissors.

 

In your hands, wife, I am a string-less marionette.

You push my head this way and that.

 

We can’t stop disorder,

only a temporary staving is truly possible.

 

It is enough; cut it clean and simple,

something like our alliance, our quotidian vengeance.

 

Longer on top, please, and trim around the ears.

This is the way I want to remember us always.

 

My dull brown hair falls from your blade.

My dull brown hair looks good against the tall green grass.

 

Our son is next, with talk of nests.

He is sure the birds will put our hair to good use.

Nothing is wasted.

 

Something intricate and soft.

Something to give the tree another purpose.

 
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Matthew Vetter's poems have appeared in regional and national literary journals including Midwest Quarterly, American Life in Poetry, The Louisville Review, and The Journal of Kentucky Studies. He is the author of a chapbook of poems, Kentucky Lullaby (Finishing Line Press, 2018). A Pushcart Prize and AWP Intro Award nominee, Vetter was the 2009 winner of the Danny Miller Memorial Award. He teaches in the English department at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.