Midtown Empty

Molly stood at the window

and looked down at the ghostly

street. Flowered gossamer swirled

around her legs—that had barely

seen a newborn sun for ages.

Here and there a solitary walker, but no

crowds waiting at lights, no city traffic.

 

She lit a menthol cigarette

with regular matches,

the windows closed. Scents

of mint and sulphur—

reminders of nearby parks

and working class yards

behind the buildings stinging her

 

with reminiscences.

An ice cream truck parked

in a driveway for little kids

climbing on jungle gyms after

school, and union men on break;

no rule says you have to be under

the age of eight to like a cone.

 

None of this climbed up to Molly—

just mint, sulphur, and memory.

She was a people painter, believed

grace required the breath of humans.

—a couple peeked down from the terrace

across the way and she knew

she could paint. With one motion

 

she stubbed the cigarette, set up her easel,

closed her eyes. Molly wouldn’t paint

this couple she’d met casually,

she just needed them. His tapered writer’s

hands, her witty brilliance, their living.

Molly’d saved her heart, her time, her canvas,

painted all the absences this couple could bear.

 

 

Tobi Alfier

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. “Symmetry: earth and sky” was just published by Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).

Losing It Found

You should never rip off your shirt at a picnic, exposing your breasts

to your second cousin’s children, unless, of course, this is your only

recourse for twenty-seven years of raw-turkey Thanksgivings and rejection.

 

But if you do, ignore the cloud in your head, clouds everywhere,

in the basket with the mustard and plastic forks. Ignore the sounds around

the cloud, the yells and shouts, the sudden blanket on your shoulders.

 

You are holding a jar of cornichons, the ones that were supposed to remind

you of France, Paris, the house in the suburbs where the mother-in-law

sent jars and jars to the family whose house you lived in. You ate them all.

 

You’ve carried each day since then, a beacon beating home, home, home.

But Paris isn’t home. Home isn’t home. You shrug off the blanket,

grab your shirt, struggle to make sense of sleeves and buttons.

 

What is the point? There’s nothing in your pocket but regret, sorrow

that has stolen your nights. People you thought were part of your heart

threw every last moon at you, leaving only stars to navigate back to yourself,

 

which you are not now, not at this picnic with all this past and history.

You wish you weren’t waiting for someone to call out as you walk down the hill,

to the lake, out on the path, buoyed, pushed to who knows where. You don’t

 

know, but you are going, listening to the gulls, holding the cloud, the cornichons,

the blanket, letting go of the past, the old beacon, finding the right direction

that is light, dazzling, seamless, at least for now. You skimmer, go.

 

Jessica Barksdale

Jessica Barksdale’s fifteenth novel, The Play’s the Thing, is forthcoming from TouchPoint Press in 2021. Her poetry collection When We Almost Drowned was published in March 2019 by Finishing Line Press. A Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee, her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in the Waccamaw Journal, Salt Hill Journal, Tahoma Review, and So to Speak. She is a Professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University.

Not Doing the Impossible

It’s impossible

not to want,

though I started to work on it

six years ago,

 

the course greased

by a new diagnosis

and prognosis

pronouncing futile

almost any wanting,

 

but now after all

these years squeaking

by in the 10% sliver

of possible survivors,

now it is harder

not to want,

 

and today’s call,

how the doctor hesitated

as she inquired

how I’ve been feeling

since the biopsy,

 

it was then I knew

she had news

that wouldn’t be

nice to hear,

so I’m definitely

wanting now.

 

Dianne Silvestri

Dianne Silvestri is author of the chapbook Necessary Sentiments. Her poems have appeared in The Healing Muse, Barrow Street Journal, Naugatuck River Review, Poetry South, New Limestone Review, The Main Street Rag, Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA Oncology, and elsewhere. A past Pushcart nominee, she leads Natick’s Morse Poetry Group in Massachusetts.

Words

From time

immemorial

we’ve pressed them

into clay,

or stone,

a coarse brush

of ochre

on cave walls,

engravings

on sarcophagi

and on forgotten

stelae

consumed

by the greedy

jungle;

they’ve flowed

from tributaries

of indigo

on the odd leaf

of skin,

or pulp,

from feathered

quills,

or styli

of steel:

enough pages

to fill the oceans,

letters raised

on the road

rash of billboards,

a forest of graffiti:

the legacy

of pictographs

and glyphs,

cursive and kanji,

cuneiform sagas

and the enigmatic

runes,

Sanskrit scriptures

that whisper across

millennia,

the Aleph

and the Roman

dispersed

through the staccato

music of keys

that sing

through a conduit

of light,

engulfs

the world

to convey

a mere

shadow

of meaning.

 

Robert René Galván

Robert René Galván, born in San Antonio, resides in New York City where he works as a professional musician and poet. His last collection of poems is entitled, Meteors, published by Lux Nova Press. His poetry was recently featured in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Azahares Literary Magazine, Gyroscope, Hawaii Review, Hispanic Culture Review, Newtown Review, Panoply, Prachya Review, Shoreline of Infinity, Somos en Escrito, Stillwater Review, West Texas Literary Review, and the Winter 2018 issue of UU World. He is a Shortlist Winner Nominee in the 2018 Adelaide Literary Award for Best Poem. Recently, his poems are featured in Puro ChicanX Writers of the 21st Century and in Yellow Medicine Review: A Journal of Indigenous Literature, Art and Thought. His forthcoming books of poetry are Undesirable: Race and Remembrance, Somos en Escrito Foundation Press, and The Shadow of Time, Adelaide Books.

A Man’s Demons

My stepfather could be kind

when his hidden demons

did not plague decisions I discerned.

 

A child can only analyze actions,

shadows reflecting the body,

motions to mimic, wrestling

 

with the waves causing callous

repercussions, creating chameleon

reactions from what my teen-vision

 

saw. I observed a man whose hands

painted mastery, Michelangelo’s student

touching his canvas, one could feel

 

a man’s face. I observed a man

whose voice was soulful enough,

a stranger debating marriage would

 

buy a wedding ring. I observed

when his hands weren’t moving,

when the theater was empty, echoes

 

rose of tales he kept to himself. Voices

from the demons that plagued him

gave him his vices, filling glasses,

 

rising temper, spreading anger,

drinking, puffing, smoking, choking

a life, stagnating work promotions,

 

taking shallow steps towards goals,

a peeled banana softened, blackened,

losing firm grounding around himself.

 

Maybe the pressure of military life

and death darkened visions from friends

never forgotten. Maybe the pressure

 

of social behaviors of blended family

caused misery. Maybe the pressure—

coming to his hometown after two-decades,

 

finding old friends, riding the same street

corners and blocks became his framework

to live. Maybe. I still may love him; his

 

decisions left my mother in an unmarked grave.

 

Mervyn R Seivwright

Mervyn R. Seivwright has appeared or has forthcoming published works in AGNI Literary Magazine, The Trinity Review, African American Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Montana Mouthful Literary Magazine, iō Literary Journal, The Stirling Spoon, The Scribe Literary Journal, Flights Literary Journal, Rigorous Magazine, Prometheus Dreaming Cultural Journal, and Toho Journal. He has received recognition as Second-Runner-Up for Mount Island’s Lucy Terry Prince poetry contest, a Semi-Finalist for the Midwest Review’s Poetry Contest, Z Publishing’s Kentucky’s Best Emerging Poets 2019, and has a poem commissioned by the British Museum, Ipswich, United Kingdom. Mervyn holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University, Louisville KY. He is from Jamaican heritage, born in London, England while he currently lives in Schopp, Germany.

A Bird that Cannot Fly

As hollow dread overtakes dawn –

I am imprisoned in my bed.

Sleeplessness of despair –

a bird that cannot fly.

Weighted down by wetted feathers of indecision,

daylight falters.

Darkness remains the dictator of the hour,

commanding black clouds.

Pain tells my story, oh so well!

Screaming alarm calls my name,

 it is for naught!

Chained to my fears by an affliction that will not cease.

It is only the beginning,

yet I want this day to end.

To fly my nest

 and soar beyond imagination once more.

 

Ann Christine Tabaka

Ann Christine Tabaka was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize in Poetry, has been internationally published, and won poetry awards from numerous publications. She is the author of 9 poetry books. She has recently been published in several micro-fiction anthologies and short story publications. Christine lives in Delaware, USA. She loves gardening and cooking. Chris lives with her husband and three cats. Her most recent credits are: Burningword Literary Journal; Muddy River Poetry Review; The Write Connection; Ethos Literary Journal, North of Oxford, Pomona Valley Review, Page & Spine, West Texas Literary Review, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Foliate Oak Review, Better Than Starbucks!, The Write Launch, The Stray Branch, The McKinley Review, Fourth & Sycamore. Website: https://annchristinetabaka.com

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