For fifty years, we lived
at the bend in Spring Creek
where the stream turns
back on itself,
in a shingled Cape Cod
too small for the family
and dreadfully cold.
The creek’s ceaseless song
captained our seasons—
the slow murmur
of half-frozen water
holding tenuously to life
or the great green rush
of an early thaw.
Each spring we bailed
trying to keep our poor boat afloat—
fearing any minute
we might have to swim for it.
How our children learned
to hate that sodden season.
They are grown now
and scattered here and there
like the spray of water on rock.
It seems forever since a visit.
The oldest, Jillie, tells me
it took years to get the creek
out of her head.
I drove past the old place today—
much of the roof is collapsed and jagged.
I like to watch the fly fisherman
pluck rainbows from their hidden holes,
with a grace beyond my understanding.
And then, at sunset,
the creek and I head home.
Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in 8 Poems, Louisiana Lit, Burningword Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Biscuit Root Drive, Evening Street, Better Than Starbucks, Flashes of Brilliance, San Antonio Review, Softblow, Mojave River Review, The Broadkill Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Panoply, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib, Thimble Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Ghost City Review, Borfski Press, Streetlight Press, Gravel, Literary Heist, Nixes Mate Review, Third Wednesday, Misfit Magazine, Word Fountain, Eclectica Magazine, The Drabble, New Verse News and The Ekphrastic Review. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His Chapbook, “Perhaps You Can,” was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory will be published by Kelsay in September 2020.
You must build doors
to invite people in
is what they’ve told me
since the funeral,
but these are coddled,
idiots, the open
floor plans of people.
They lust after beige:
nice and wanting
nothing. What I want
is to pause
and talk to them
like we talked
to her in hospice.
You look for twigs
to coax them
to grass, deliver them
from the threat
of neighborhood kids
who love nothing
inside their rooms
and would murder
for candy, or pets
they would let die.
They are too young
to love a better way.
To close these doors
built to nowhere,
doors flung open
just for them
to hurtle through.
Emily Kingery is an Associate Professor of English at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, where she teaches courses in literature, writing, and linguistics. Her work appears or is forthcoming in multiple literary journals, including Eastern Iowa Review, Gingerbread House, High Shelf Press, New South, PROEM, Prometheus Dreaming, Quercus, and Telepoem Booth, and she has been a Pushcart Prize nominee. She serves on the Board of Directors at the Midwest Writing Center, a non-profit organization that supports writers in the Quad Cities community.
The heart has abdicated feeling.
I have enough to do, all this beating, all this pumping.
Builds a wall to harden the pericardium.
Feels the shearing less.
Knows it is ultimately useless and easily scaled,
the breakthrough scorching.
In the heart’s determined absence,
the digestive track takes up the slack, but can’t stomach it.
Bile, bubbling lava, ire, rise along the esophageal membranes.
What does make it down is hardly digestible,
only present due to the sheer volume of forced feeding.
The small intestine is especially overworked,
separating the pure from the unpure, the true from the untrue,
the useful from the corrupted, too big a job
So nearly all passes on to the large intestine,
which just wants more water.
The lungs, the lungs are crying,
damp or charred,
ash floating, hacking up bits of themselves,
too many fires burning, too many on the edge of the last exhale.
Seeking solace on hard granite,
weep into the mother’s embrace
even as she suffers.
The nervous system is trigger-happy.
The hand tremors unrelenting.
Good time not to have a gun.
The interstitial swamps,
lowdown fluids between/among
are in the best shape, not frozen, not making off
with the last energy in the treasury.
Steady, slow, tidal,
still taking cues from the moon
but in need of water.
The feet run.
The hands want to strangle.
The spine contorts under jeopardy.
The endocrine system would just like
the right drugs to fuck its brains out.
The mouth and vocal chords,
more inarticulate than not,
garble, gurgle, sputter, spewing
The central canal, the core,
aligning with the earth’s magma
unconcerned with blue, waits
for vents, fissures, some pore, some open vein
to come erupting out
with precision and deadly aim.
But the cells
in their unwavering, egalitarian democracy,
in their trillions, all still work together,
each with its small input, need, job,
in this way to keep the whole alive.
The mind, once tethered by the heart, is disembodied,
wracked in this climate of isolation.
shouting for water.
Karin Spitfire is the author of Standing with Trees and a chapbook “Wild Caught.” Her poem “Liquidation” won the national first place in the 2019 Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, sponsored by WOMR, Provincetown. Her poems have appeared in 3 Nations Anthology, You Say. Say, on-line journals, Canary: A Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis, The Catch: Writings from Downeast, Trivia: Voices of Feminism, and print journals, Off the Coast, The Aurorean, Rootdrinker, Currents, the Journal of Body Mind Centering. “What is to be Offered published in The Kerf, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was the Poet Laureate of Belfast, Me in 2007 & 2008.
We are lost
in Viagra’d beds,
in sticky, spilled orange sidewalk pop,
in black sidewalk gum,
in sidewalk blood,
in blood cough,
in closing time at McDonald’s.
We are lost
under the weight of breathing.
Our reality show is unwatched.
We are lost alone.
We are lost
under control of blank-heart marketers.
We are directionless, hopeless, homeless,
without peace, untouched, cross-nailed.
Tell me we aren’t.
We count down our two thousand million seconds.
We hear the raw prophesy in our blood pulse.
We know awful solitude.
We are lost
far behind the pack,
in the sandstorm, on calmless seas, in ever-dark alleys,
forgotten in our time-out corner,
forgotten on our bassinette, strapped,
ignored in our unworthiness,
turned away from —
after the lights go off, on mean streets
and dream streets and yellow-brick streets,
unvoted for, unselected, unbirthed, untouched.
Enduring, on the road, in ravened embrace.
We are lost
as we hold blooded hands
and keel into the pounding falls.
Exhaling, exhaling, all is exhaling. Then, silence.
We are lost in our SUV, in our Humvee,
on our mountain bike, on foot, wheelchaired,
gurneyed into the operating room,
gurneyed to the basement coolers —
on the armied dark beach,
unable to climb bloody down from our fatal tree,
reaching across the chasm,
in grave and ash and scattered bones.
There is no lost paradise.
We are lost to decay, to rot, to corruption, to death —
We are lost as we hold hands.
We are lost
behind the Oak Lawn house,
on the bloody grass.
We are lost
as we hold hands
for the walk to the chamber.
We are lost
Patrick T. Reardon
Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of eight books, including the poetry collection Requiem for David and Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence His poetry has appeared in Silver Birch Press, San Antonio Review, Eclectica, Esthetic Apostle, Ground Fresh Thursday, Literary Orphans, Rhino, Spank the Carp, Main Street Rag, The Write Launch, Meat for Tea, Tipton Poetry Journal, UCity Review, Under a Warm Green Linden and The Write City.
morning: brushing sleep
off my teeth.
the room is silent
in that glassy sense of silence;
all small sounds
bouncing on blue tile,
like life as it is
in the margins of motion.
I wash my face
with cold water
and tap the razor
on side of the sink
while I wait for the pipes
to turn functional. out the window
I see night stand up
and begin wandering
frost given style
by the rising signs
of daylight. birds don’t sing –
it’s winter here. cats
don’t wander on the garden
lawn. in the bedroom
my girlfriend is asleep again
after waking a little
when I got out of bed. I go to the kitchen
and make coffee,
catch my ankles
on last night’s wine. shoes,
coats and take-away chip bags
crumple and creep along the carpet,
scratching their way into sunlight
like brambles, patching rarely
DS Maolalai has been nominated four times for Best of the Net and three times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019)
On Doing Good in America
“If you are born poor it’s not your mistake, but if you die poor it’s your mistake.”- Bill Gates
We admire the philanthropist for “giving back”
and ignore what they first had to take away.
It is a sin to need help and a blessing to offer it;
there is profit in not asking too many questions:
“How does one with no boots
pull himself up by his bootstraps?”
“Why teach someone to fish
then deny them access to the lake?”
We are only 4.25% of global population, and yet
we own 28% of Covid-19 fatalities. But don’t worry,
our billionaires, dying to restart their factories,
donate to food banks so the underpaid don’t starve.
But we do not weep for the hungry—this is America!
We are each one sixty-hour workweek away
from striking it rich. We refuse to quarantine our dreams;
If 200,000 perish, that’s the price of freedom.
Someday we’ll erect an immaculate monument
to those who died for the good of the economy.
His Momma died 18 months ago. For Mother’s Day,
he bought one of those shiny Mylar helium balloons
and some Carnations. It wasn’t easy to do, between shifts
at work and wearing a mask to the store—it’s dangerous
for a Black man to protect himself against a virus—
but he wanted to honor the woman who,
in spite of the odds, had kept him alive.
He tied the balloon to a vase on the kitchen table
where they used to listen to music and cook dinner.
When the store clerk was filling it, he
stifled a laugh-turned-cry, remembering that birthday
when she got him 20 balloons and one-by-one
they inhaled the noble gas,
nearly dying of laughter at their squeaky voices.
Leaving for the final time, he caught his reflection
in the Mylar. Hours later, dying beneath a cop’s knee,
he called out for Momma.
The last thing he saw was the joy in her eyes.
Back home the flowers have wilted and the balloon,
twisting slowly in the now-stale air,
sinks lower and lower to the ground.
in memory of George Floyd
The Beauty of Bipolar Depression
Too musically disinclined to rap or sing the blues,
too bound up in striving to retire
to the vase of my bed like an ersatz flower
(not even 300mg of Seroquel
can reduce me to mere ornamentation),
I instead write this poem,
which few will read.
You may wonder if it matters
that you read this, but
I’m not one to lavish much on myself:
For whom else would I obsess
over this comma, that
To survive this world’s lush, radiant, burlesque
It’s best that you understand
why I will never self-immolate, never
give what’s broken in me or the world
the satisfaction of my surrender.
Peel back my eyes
and touch the still-healing wound
oozing cerebral fluid from the Big Bang.
It’s in this blind space of raw pain
I often dwell. Here everything is reduced
to elements, genes, math, poetry. Here
my life to date plays on an endless loop like
propaganda. And here originate the florid
manifestations of myself: the video gamer
and the coder, the lucid dreamer
and the psychoanalyst.
If you could join me here,
you would understand how I’ve endured.
You would find immortality in anguish.
“Power is not what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.” – Saul Alinsky
Elections have consequences.
So say the victors to justify
their ends and means.
Perhaps the American Dream
is to live without consequence:
no mistakes, only cheapness
we are free to later discard.
Why deliberate honestly?
Abundance is our temptation,
prosperity the lie we tell to
expiate our original sin.
Elections have consequences.
Had Lincoln lost, how many
would we still count as slaves?
Who voted for mass incarceration,
child detention, soaring inequality?
In America anything is possible.
A Black president. Rags-to-riches.
Our poets, scientists, entrepreneurs
have proven their greatness—
the full flower of individualism—
Yet something blights the soil.
We are good people but not a
Good People. We welcome the Iraqi
refugee, ignore the crime that made him one.
Who voted for the War on Terror?
Who paid for the lies that launched it?
How much is too much to spend on
defense? On political ads?
Alinsky argued that what matters
is a particular means for a particular
end. Democracy not in the abstract
but in the flesh, the messy world
of action and reaction. I’m ready to commit
murder at the ballot box. I hope it’s not
too late to stop the carnage. America
forgives itself so easily, as though
we weren’t forgiving but forgetting.
If we knew the difference between
poll numbers and corpses, budgets
and starvation, we might have avoided
this moment. A pandemic. A fraud.
I cast my vote uncertain it will count.
That is, be counted. That is, matter.
When my blood is on the ballot,
there is only one outcome I can accept.
Elections have consequences.
Andy Posner grew up in Los Angeles and earned an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial services to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, watching documentaries, and ranting about the state of the world. He has had his poetry published in several journals, including Burningword Literary Journal (which nominated his poem ‘The Machinery of the State’ for the Pushcart Poetry Prize), Noble/Gas Quarterly, and The Esthetic Apostle.