Tell Me Who I Am

Some days I don’t recognize myself—when

I step from the shower and catch a glimpse

of my face clouded with steam

 

and all I have from all of my yesterdays is

a smudge on an old polaroid—as if a pair of bees

could remember themselves out of honeycomb,

 

having fallen to the ground—I don’t know

who I am, not just the story of who I am—

the secrets I need answers to are watching

 

from the cedar-limbs by a pair of blackbirds

hidden in snow.  Even the cupboards could hold

a gentle sheen or a soft glow, as if

 

a chain of memories could be mended, once

broken, when the moonlight pierces the reeds

and paints the sea the muddled green of grief.

 

If I chose to tread through this endlessness,

I’d start to imagine waves crashing and then

slowly molding a long white beach—

 

How do we hold ourselves against the abyss?

 

 

Eric Stiefel

Eric Stiefel is a Cuban-American Ph.D. candidate at Ohio University, though he received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, where he also served as the 2017-2018 Junior Poetry Fellow. Eric was named the winner of the 2018 Sequestrum New Writer Awards and a finalist in the 2018 Penn Review Poetry Prize and the 2020 Third Coast Poetry Contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Apple Valley Review, Prism Review, The Literary Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Frontier Poetry, and elsewhere.

On Frairy Street

She peels gum from the sidewalk,

pops it in her mouth, ignores the grit.

There is some sweetness left.

 

Skip and chew, skip and chew,

she gloats to herself—sure that none

of her siblings had gum today.

 

She once heard her mother say—

Don’t ever swallow gum or it’ll stay

in your stomach for seven years.

 

Seven plus seven—I’ll be fourteen then.

 

* * *

 

Tonight for dinner, again they pick

dandelions in the backyard, catch

crayfish from the brook.

 

She eats the bitter salad. Refuses the meat.

For dessert—she retrieves her gum

from beneath the table.

 

The sweetness is gone.

She thinks of another place to stick it—

on a park bench, the apple tree trunk,

 

the tar-coated telephone pole—

because she can’t swallow it.

She just can’t.

 

Seven years is a long time.

 

Lisa J. Sullivan

Lisa J. Sullivan holds an MFA in Poetry from the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College, where she was a Kurt Brown Memorial Fellow. Her work has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, The Comstock Review, Puckerbrush Review, and elsewhere. Her ekphrastic piece “To the Bog of Allen” was selected as the United States Winner of the 2013 Ireland Poetry Project contest in collaboration with the Academy of American Poets. She is an associate editor for Lily Poetry Review Books and a poetry editor for Pink Panther Magazine.

Too Many Questions

Six weeks

after I began ninth grade,

Mother went to bed.

 

She closed drapes, hid

autumn light, knotted

her body beneath winter blankets.

 

Seven years earlier,

her brother went to work

then crawled under his desk,

mumbling.

 

White jackets took him away

and whispers I overheard

spoke of electroshock therapy,

depression.

 

Confused by my feelings,

I asked no forgiveness

for liking the new quiet,

 

but it felt strange

to exist without her anger,

her disappointment.

 

I pedaled to the cemetery,

walked among tombstones,

sorting my unsettled mind

as I questioned skeletal remains.

 

There was John, the soldier

from South Carolina

whose brother had disappeared.

But not under blankets.

 

I asked James, the eldest

of ten children, what he knew

about living in the dark.

 

He kept it simple, suggested

I leave her alone,

get on with my life.

 

I bemoaned my transfer

to a new school,

but Daniel, who grew up

on a farm in south Georgia,

 

laughed, said school was school

and I should just shut up.

Or pack a bag and run away.

My choice.

 

I thanked them all,

bid them good night

and rode home

as streetlights began to buzz.

 

Is she thinking

about my mistakes,

storing up punishment

 

and criticism to use

when she gets well?

Will she get well?

 

And who is cooking dinner?

 

 

Linda Wimberly

Linda Wimberly is a writer, artist and musician from Marietta, GA. A former Vermont Studio Center resident in writing, her poetry has appeared in The Raw Art Review, Lunch Ticket, Stone River Sky: An Anthology of Georgia Poems and others and a short story appeared in Cricket. She is a self-taught abstract artist and her images have appeared in or been cover art for jelly bucket, Critical Pass Review, Inscape Magazine and others. Her image “Woman on the Move” won the 2019 Art Contest for So to Speak: feminist journal of language and art. (lindawimberly.com)

There Is a Temperature

Our clock.

Do you remember?  The one we bought at the edge of the world? The shop being pulled into the ocean ? She has rounded the bend. She’s played her song.

The crickets still chirp. The moon still shines.

Outside, the world is covered in silver dust. Outside, the trees and the stones are getting colder and colder and colder.

Let’s agree that pajamas are for puritans. We are of this world. We were made to sleep with feathers. We were made for open windows. We were made to be together.

Ask the scientists. There is a temperature perfect for sleeping. It’s the temperature of you and me close enough to warm, but not close enough to burn.

Pajamas, my darling, only get in the way.

 

Shawn Pfunder

Shawn Pfunder is a writer, performer, and creative coach. He studied poetry and fiction at the University of Montana. He is the author of the poetry book, I Believe in a God Who Roller Skates. Shawn lives in Phoenix, Arizona with a medium-sized dog.

Country Boy

When we were kids, in junior school

in Pembrokeshire, we didn’t do wild

or joyful, didn’t do great and glorious.

We wore limp ties, half-skewed,

over blue-green cotton shirts, grey shorts,

and tugged long, drooping woollen socks.

We hoarded foreign stamps, played marbles,

were drilled in tables, verbs and chalk,

hoofed at a soggy leather football.

 

There were a few quick early sallies

down the rapids of River Joy, first sounds

maybe of Elvis, first scents of dances,

first date .. but that was soon washed up

on the banks of embarrassment.

One first big joy, first rush of rhapsody,

was our trip to the London Planetarium,

the sunrise scene, to Morning from Peer Gynt,

and the sense of a wondrous opening-out.

The price, as I remember, was a shilling.

 

First weeks in university. Posters and politics

and arguments over midnight coffee

and then, with such a shot to the emotions,

the new black friends in the hall of residence,

Femi from Nigeria, Zac from Ghana,

Astley from Jamaica. Back home we’d read

of Windrush and Brixton and rioting

and landladies (no dogs, no blacks, no Irish).

Now suddenly these charming, genial men.

The fellowship. The joy of it.

 

That was October 1960

and it seemed absurdly simple.

 

 

Robert Nisbet

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has appeared recently in the USA in San Pedro River Review, Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, Burningword Literary Journal, and many online journals. He has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

The Discalced

Into the foothills:

individuated and

intentional, like tumuli,

poised in geometric solitude;

yet reiterant—

battologizing in every direction

like a lavish obsession;

 

Over the clatter of lava scree,

down stress-cracked arroyos

polyped with balsamroot,

astride dustracks canine and human,

over roots of gnarled fir that

knuckle the trail like black fingers.

 

Into the foothills, then,

you run—

without optimism,

suspecting all summits false,

enduring your own shadowy weather—

unending systems of shifting mentalese;

 

Overtaking strangers wordless

and passing through strands of huddled pine

sunk with errant shafts of yellow light,

networks of crows bruiting your

course in the canopies above.

 

With ragged breath and aching limb,

you are lifted and lowered,

left to pursue protracted arcs,

like the practitioner of an esoteric ritual,

like the epigone of a mathematical formula.

 

Compacted and sunbaked into pavement

the path rattles talus and tibia,

climbs the fickle architecture of your spine,

and delivers spoonfuls of annihilation.

 

Into the foothills, then,

you are running—

not speaking,

but hanging on

the susurrus of the breeze,

listening intently,

trying to hear the urgent call of the world.

 

James F. Latin

Jimmy Latin is in his fourth year of Honours English at Concordia University (Montreal). He writes poetry, fiction, and non-fiction.

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