And so a playbill,
a box of kitchen matches
with blue heads and
a dry red rubber band
that parts at touch
from the belly of the box,
and a flat stone
similar to sea glass
that her child picked up
and stuck in her palm
more years ago than
she’s kept track. Junk
in a drawer she’s set
to empty, half-filled
She once knew the guy
who first appeared in Act I,
Scene I. He had a mustache,
freckles on his chest in summer
when they swam.
The photocopied playbill
of his last name
but not his eye-color,
not his voice.
for another hour and ten minutes
in the food court
in the hub-city airport
with the black and white
by the escalators
something he said to her once
It takes many, many years
to distill experience into prose.
Now there is vinegar
running down her right hand
from the overpriced submarine sandwich
chockfull, not of veggies
but of cheese and turkey,
now there is a recycled napkin—swipe-swipe.
But she carries its acidic scent
as perfume on the insides of her wrists
walking back with her carryon to Concourse C
with the vague memory of the place
where they bought the caramel apples
the practiced flick of the employee’s wrist
rolling each globed fruit on a stick in
a puddle of evenly-crushed pecans.
She’s tried many times to emulate
with a simple cutting board and knife;
no effort matches
what it was like, that first perfect bite.
Melanie Faith is a poet, fictionist, photographer, editor, tutor, and professor. Her writing has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. Melanie collects quotes, books, and twinkly costume-jewelry pins, and she enjoys spending time with her darling nieces. She holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte. Her photography recently appeared in Harbor Review and The Moving Force Journal, and her poetry appeared in Verse of Silence. Get her artwork at WritePathProductions at Etsy. Her latest book, Photography for Writers, was published in Nov. 2019 (Vine Leaves Press) https://www.vineleavespress.com/photography-for-writers-bymelanie-faith.html . Learn about her latest projects at: https://www.melaniedfaith.com/blog/ and https://twitter.com/writer_faith .
You show yourself in the rumba of the oak leaves,
in the patriotic flip flap of the flag fastened
to its lowest branch, in the tritone of the wind chimes
out by the water’s edge. The distant mountains
form a kind of concert hall of storm sounds,
their acoustics a marvel of nature’s engineering,
making your operatic echo magnify itself
in thrilling arias. But then,
at storm’s end – silence. The moon twins
its spotlight on the water, mirroring
itself. You’ve gone quiet, invisible. Yet,
we know you will outlast us all. In our will
we bequeath you the universe.
Don’t forget your songs, whether or not
anyone is left to hear them.
Dear (New England) January
Thank God for you! How thrilling your certainty, your lack of sun, your icy sidewalks, your air dry dry dry on the skin the lips the eyes, your frosted anthills pancaking gray beneath our boots. The lean coyote’s getting leaner, slinking closer to the house. The mice sneak in behind the dryer where it’s nice and warm. The pipes will freeze if we don’t stroke them with the hairdryer. No one wants to take a walk and tempt the Devil of Black Ice. Doggie will have to make do with an open door.
Hooray for you, January! There is no greater hope than standing here, planted in the almost-dark of 4 o’clock. It was darker just two weeks ago, when your older sister dressed herself in Christmas sparklers, merry-making in tiny multi-colored stars. December. The big tease. Will you won’t you will you won’t you snow on Christmas eve? Bring the airports to their knees? Leave travelers sleeping on the floor surrounded by their desperate festive packages?
Dearest January. You rock ‘n roll our thermostats through February. The snowman’s carrot nose has come unhinged, slipsliding towards muddy March. The ice dams cometh. Finally, April. The bravest flowers poke themselves out of the ground. Birds rev up their manic songs in search of mates. Gardeners rake the dead-brown earth. The arborists swoop in, warning of the latest moth-infesting threat to oak, maple, birch…. More money. Also, however, grass. Green leaves. More light.
More light. Spring. Summer. We salute you Janus, two-headed God of portals. You know that, like the past, our future rests assured. It’s enough to make a bully weep with gratitude.
Marian Kaplun Shapiro
Marian Kaplun Shapiro, a previous contributor, is the author of a professional book, Second Childhood (Norton, 1988), a poetry book, Players In The Dream, Dreamers In The Play (Plain View Press, 2007) and two chapbooks: Your Third Wish, (Finishing Line, 2007); and The End Of The World, Announced On Wednesday (Pudding House, 2007). A Quaker and a psychologist, her poetry often embeds the topics of peace and violence by addressing one within the context of the other. A resident of Lexington, she is a five-time Senior Poet Laureate of Massachusetts. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2012.
Looking for spare change, I find
a spoon in my lover’s pants pocket
and it smells like liquor. I shake
his khakis and out falls more noise
than a quarter and dime should make.
What hits the floor can shake a place,
like upstairs neighbors fighting
last night. Pots and pans, and I imagine,
elbows and knees slammed above me.
Gravity does not hold a ceiling to a wall,
one lover to another. Did our builder
count out his nails? Loose hinges
cause doors to dangle, and the cat
sneaks out. Random pieces of grass
get stuck in a wandering shoe.
Maybe our neighbors threw the spoon
out the window and my lover found
it on his way home. I run my tongue
along its cool, arched back, taste
not quite Bourbon, not white
wine. I slide both hands in his pockets
to see what else I might find.
Beth Oast Williams
Beth Oast Williams is a student with the Muse Writers Center in Norfolk, Virginia. Her poetry has appeared in West Texas Literary Review, Wisconsin Review, Glass Mountain, The Bookends Review, and Willard and Maple, among others. She was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize in poetry, received second place in the 2019 Poetry Matters Project and was a semi-finalist for Poet’s Billow’s 2018 Atlantis Award. Her workshop experience includes Bread Loaf and VQR Writers Conferences.
What is it about
sky’s darkening hue
in early evening
that evinces a oneness
Whenever I return home
I feel deeply loved.
I stand in holy contentment
by a gate smothered in Bougainvillea.
like cool fingering breeze
wait for lone hawk
to rattle up from the ground.
Whatever else fills my days—
music, fashioning verse
wherever else I live—
with evanescence longings
I anchor myself deeply
in this ineffable, intimate place
which itself is breathing.
Tonight, I feel a hum of delight
circling through me
shattering limiting languishes.
Time seems to lengthen.
A few steps from my door
a gaggle of magpies
black and white and saucy
as a masquerade party
have taken over the yard.
And the moon’s thin white smile
sends a passionate coax
to step out again and again.
Marianne has been a music teacher for 43 years. After teaching in Hong Kong, she returned to the Napa Valley and has been published in various literary magazines and reviews including Ravens Perch, TWJM Magazine, Earth Daughters and Indiana Voice Journal. She was nominated for the Pushcart prize in 2017. She is a member of the California Writers Club and an Adjunct Professor at Touro University in California.
In a shared taxi, beet yellow in the
Carolina sun, an old woman describes
her exodus from a town overrun with
Jews. They trampled the Angel Oaks,
she crows, lining their
pockets with real estate deals.
In stopped-time, we could craft a retort:
That’s rather offensive, or Would you
like to finish Hitler’s work? or (with
a sidelong glance) Don’t you realize
you are riding in here alongside filthy Jews?
In her defense, the tropes drone on: we
are bankers, hypnotists, engines of overthrow.
Flame-wars grow fierce over statements by
Congresspeople. It’s blood libel and
bulbous-nosed caricatures all over again.
In a hospital in Ohio, bedpans clinking,
death rattles just around the bend, while
a doctor tweets a promise to pass the wrong
medicine to her Jewish patients. Firemen
hesitate to spray because all houses matter,
sirens of the muezzins, their truck a long red
tongue licking the wounds of the street.
Alisha Goldblatt is an English teacher and writer living in Portland, Maine with her two wonderful children and one lovely husband. She has published poems in Midstream Magazine, Georgetown Review, Mockingheart Review, the Common Ground Review, Literary Mama, and Portland Press Herald: Deep Water, as well as essays in the Stonecoast Review, The Wisconsin Review, and MothersAlwaysWrite. She was a featured poet in this fall’s Belfast Poetry Festival. Alisha also released a children’s book, Finding a Way, about her son’s rare chromosomal disorder and the beauty of acceptance.
or (a Letter to My Brother I Wrote, Ripped, and Retaped)
Real men should be afraid of nothing,
especially not of other men.
But what of those they don’t consider to be real men?
What about the fear of even touching their blood
because it probably has AIDS?
The fear that makes every son a blessing;
every gay son a curse:
a death in the family,
a non-existent thing,
A faggot for allowing your heart to decide.
Faggot for letting your back arch
like a dog in heat for another man to make you his.
Faggot for breaking your mother’s heart,
and her father’s father’s,
and his Father who is in heaven:
hallowed be His name;
hollowed was yours on her lips
when she used to ring your wrists
until your 6-year-old hands went numb,
yelling into your big brown eyes,
wishing that you were more like me.
Your place in the afterlife hijacked
by one who loves women
just like he’s supposed to,
and takes it without complaining:
because prayer can fix anything—
like Vicks VapoRub—
because Don’t worry it’ll pass
will also pass, and you will be judged
by people who call themselves family,
who hate you because you’re not what they
think a man should be:
what your Creator made you as
when He made you the way He made you.
He loves you, along with all the angels
in eternity who are cheering for you
to grab your piece of heaven by force.
The hell I tortured you with
when I joined in because I didn’t know any better,
because I’d rather be wrong than be your brother,
because protecting you meant making myself weak.
Back when I wasn’t strong enough to be strong for you;
when you were stronger for the both of us,
and all of those that needed to form a mob
in order to be strong against you.
When I wanted to protect you from yourself
and all the evil in your veins—
the meth in your madness—
after you told me you had HIV.
How I wished for you to be 6 again
so I could finally be stronger than you,
and wrap you in my arms against your will
until you cried yourself to sleep.
I’d carry you to your room
and heal your wounds
with my kisses.
But even in your weakened state,
you wouldn’t have needed my help
the way the phoenix doesn’t
need a firefighter to aid it
as its heart burns to ash,
or a sculptor to fashion
its feathers anew from cinder.
There will always be men
who will hate you to feel like men,
preaching the Gospel of Jesus, love incarnate,
hiding behind His cross their fear of faggots—
killing Abel, the world’s first gay man and martyr,
time and time again
out of jealousy
because God loved him more
Jose Oseguera is an LA-based writer of poetry, short fiction and literary nonfiction. Having grown up in a primarily immigrant, urban environment, Jose has always been interested in the people and places around him, and the stories that each of these has to share. His writing has been featured in The Esthetic Apostle, McNeese Review, and The Main Street Rag. His work has also been nominated for the “Best of the Net” award (2018 and 2019) and the “Pushcart Prize.” He is the author of the forthcoming poetry collection “The Milk of Your Blood.”