The land in Nevada seems barren
like evil witch skin until you get
a better view. Start with a
close-up of crater valley, five shades
of brown, the ochre lip of serious
plummage, cracked ridge,
circular but not perfectly so, its irregular
features staring up at feathery wisps
of malnourished clouds.
Something as forceful as god rearranged
what once was, what once lay dormant,
dehydrated rivers, quivering
with geologic memories, nothingness pre-
served, dead sea, land succession bolted,
flat-lined except for mountain
ridges, curved, curling up toward bleak sky.
Ancient birds, vectors of pestilence, rise
from pink ash beds, illuminating
the very place I stand. I reach out, I reach
up, grasping at history’s breath, pulling it
in on top of me, seeking resurrection
of soul, spirit, body; acknowledging
the eminent passing of all that I am
into the hot mouth of time.
Whether John Dorroh taught any secondary science is still being discussed. He did manage, however, to show up at 6:45 every morning with at least three lesson plans and a thermos of robust Colombian. His poetry has appeared in about 80-85 journals, including Dime Show Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Os Pressan, Feral, Selcouth Station, and Red Dirt Forum/Press. He also writes short fiction and the occasional rant.
there are times when i feel like i’m observing
myself from a constellated distance in the same
way one would look at a starry sky or a pastoral
scene or a bloody gory picture show
and when i see myself
in this way
i am wearing a full length black dress
and my head is shaven in a haphazard
and misbegotten manner
and the background is so white
that it becomes a sort of nothingness
not quite an ethereal nothingness
but a quivering nothingness composed
of floating particles of debris that could be
flecks of white ash from raging wildfires
and so i wrap my quavering white
hands around my shuddering body
like a cowering child in a torrent of criticism
and all i can see are a set of white hands
wrapped around a flowing black dress
in front of a spectral white nothingness
and my chalk white face is emotionless
and my eyes are painted black coals
devoid of compassion or empathy
and i am struggling to keep my mouth closed
because i know if i open my mouth
i will release a stream of swarming plague locusts
and these locusts will be filled with lechery and greed
the sort of lechery and greed that devours defenseless
acts of kindness and helpless acts of tenderness
James Butcher’s work has appeared in Rivet, Prick of the Spindle, Midwest Review, and Cream City Review.
Come the dawn, clean through
my usual downstream drift
of random, qualm-suppressive
dreaming, there cuts a, not sound,
but sound’s hind-edge lull.
Stranger still, to be found
awake where the walls that make
for a house dissolve like doubt,
and all there is is our street’s,
bound in grief and not shamed
by its pain. Before this room’s accum-
ulations can again occlude
my gaze, I’m heading where, bare,
wrongs too embedded not to wring
their truth from song after song
prove how leadenly they’ll linger:
like granules in the tissues, but longer.
A day still loyal to its night.
White noise resumes while what illumines
dims. That, thus, seems that. Or
does it? Before fluming off
where next means same, let’s name
every hope this reveille hypes.
Let’s reclaim we will from you shouldn’t,
can from could’ve but couldn’t.
Let’s not wind up ended up
still deadending here. Declare
that we’re hearing rusty hasps
wrested off, and I’ll laugh, Yeah.
For those wondering whether or no
what needed breaking in fact
got broke, my take on it is
we should just make sure it did.
But as for you who long to hear
only the fist-eyed grunt
of a tightening grip, I won’t
cheer or chide such fear.
An hour ached-for as ours
blazes too briefly to waste
on a case as lost, a cause
as disgraced, as now is,
at long, long last, yours.
Friends, I’m having one of those days.
Everything’s bad and getting worse.
It’s obvious by now that for all the valiant
and selfless striving, most of us won’t
change fast enough for it to matter.
The trash, the cars, the meat, the water:
do your part or don’t, trust science
or that guy on YouTube, it’s the same. Friends,
as a poet I shouldn’t be writing this, but
my mood’s in no mood to worry about
how it makes me sound. Well, challenge accepted.
Ask yourselves this: what were you expecting
when you breezed in here past a title
like the one above? Something squalid and personal,
all binges, breakdowns, and performative trauma?
Sorry to disappoint, but in my disclosure
the catastrophe on display is you, not me.
Fact is, friends, I’m ashamed for our species,
and for most of us as individuals too.
I wish it wasn’t like that, but it is. Boom.
So you can understand why I’m always
coming back here, this bright noplace
where I’m never too proud to remember
kindnesses shown me when I was poor,
or lonely, or foolish, by someone with nothing
to gain. Because here, the rinsed light of morning
never quite fades from the view out over
green quiltworked fields, orchards, a river
sweeping grandly off toward the sea beyond.
And today you came, which makes me glad
because why shouldn’t it? It does. It will.
Here I wish you, I wish us all, well.
James McKee enjoys failing in his dogged attempts to keep pace with the unrelenting cultural onslaught of late-imperial Gotham. His debut poetry collection, The Stargazers, was published in the spring of 2020, while his poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Spoon River Poetry Review, Another Chicago Magazine, New Ohio Review, New World Writing, The Ocotillo Review, Illuminations, CutBank, Flyway, THINK, The Midwest Quarterly, Xavier Review, and elsewhere. He spends his free time, when not writing or reading, traveling less than he would like and brooding more than he can help.
Like eyes in a skull,
riveted on me,
I see the windows
of a white van
in my rearview
I speed up
so does he
and we keep
going like this,
the sweat of fear
stinging my eyes
till I am racing,
a rabbit, with
a fox that covets,
A sign for a business district–
the car, and my heart, slow
down. I turn off, spy a gaggle
of little boys headed home
from Cub Scouts or Bible School.
Grateful to them, I stop, roll down
the window, tell the nearest child:
“I am being followed.
Could I use your parents’ phone?”
“OK”, the kid says “I live over there,”
pointing down the road. “Get in,”
I say, “I’ll take you all home,”
and seven small boys
I am driving slowly
when the sheriff
at the sight,
of a white lady’s car
with black boys,
I look back and see
the white van
at the turnoff
to the town,
E. Laura Golberg
Laura Golberg’s poem Erasure has been nominated for a Pushcart 2021 Prize. Her poetry has appeared in Rattle, Poet Lore, Laurel Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Spillway, RHINO, and the Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, among other places. She won first place in the Washington, DC Commission on the Arts Larry Neal Poetry Competition.
Sitting in the isolation booth,
listening for the fading bell.
The headphones, leather-bound and lush,
are pillowy around my ears,
a vacuum of sound.
When I first signed up,
I thought it would be easy money.
But within the experiment,
there is always a double game.
Amidst a distant humming,
my eardrums gradually disconnect,
and another timbre insinuates itself.
Exclusivity is now unblurred into its primary coloring.
Causal potency, insistent and self-confident,
reaches across the small revolutions
of electrons and protons,
and the power embedded within the orbits becomes tactile.
If you calculate the empty space between the points of energy,
the sum will strain comprehension.
Layer on the emergent potential
and it will fold upon itself, numberless.
They want you to tell them what they already know,
but, there’s something else answered
in the darkening absence of sound.
As the soul machine re-dons
its practiced gait, momentum and mass
disguise the slightest remnant of a limp.
Metal shavings vibrate softly,
re-orienting to magnetic poles
with their interpretations.
Chris Innes is a writer living in Washington, D.C. and has had poetry published in a variety of literary magazines, including The Wisconsin Review, The Cape Rock, Prairie Winds, Common Ground Review, The Pikeville Review, Descant, and The Mankato Poetry Review.
Honestly, I can’t be bothered to find out
Whether there is already a poem
About how to draw a horse,
The words brushed sleek as the roan mare
You curried the summer you were fourteen
And horseshit was a perfume you sniffed
Eagerly as lilac, as bread broken open,
The linseed funk of a boy two years older,
His voice beyond breaking; his long lashes
Pretty as a forelock. Stables call for pen and ink
And a sure hand; you can use charcoal for a canter.
How to draw a horse– you’re thinking the horse
Stands for something else and it may,
They come standard in quartets for an apocalypse,
Well-matched, ready for a chaise and four
Like Bingley had, along with Netherfield
And Darcy’s impossible friendship, fronting
A dusty stagecoach in the Wild West. You listen
For hoofbeats similar to your systole
If you are not terrified, in a tizzy, falling in love
The way I fall down the stairs in my dreams, endless,
The fall through clouds on a gas giant, pocked Jupiter
Or Bespin, an asymptotic descent I cannot complete.
How to draw a horse:
Using your dominant hand,
Knowing the crest and the croup,
Still, breathless, tasting
The sweet green scent of masticated hay,
The antithesis of your adoration,
Knowing you will fail.
Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing physician who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, McSweeney’s, and [PANK] among other journals. She was the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest, the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest and the 2020 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology and for a 2019 and 2020 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.