There were fields around our homes, Joel,
some fallow for a season, others full of maize.
Around them were the woods, in winter
a filigree of witch-fingers clutching at the sky,
in summer, overgrowing every boundary.
Enclosed within the symmetry of corn rows
and houses, we slept well at night, although
boys’ thoughts drift and shape-shift.
We could see there was no reconciliation
between the earth and our back and forth
attempts at order. Fences falling groundward
succumbed beneath vines. An orchard grown wild
was our prototype for Eden. Its apples were picked
by deer, or left in the grass as God intended,
rotting with their wasted cider.
In the north country now, I imagine people are burning
leaves. Fire runs through them like a loose dog.
From the hillside, you can see smoke rising, a man
standing there beside the bonfire, watching. A woman
comes out from the house. It’s almost a ritual scene.
There are no leaves burning in this yard.
I hear voices from inside the cafe, but I’m alone
beneath a locust tree, drinking coffee,
watching two men in the next yard over
gather tomatoes they grew somehow amid the ruins
of a Brooklyn townhouse. Odd angles, old brick
mold-mottled, and those green, gaunt vines
that twist and zigzag, and branch out, emerald lightning.
The property was abandoned back in March
when they cut the chainlink fence. Together,
they cleared as much of the soil as they could
of stones and glass. Boards protruding from the ground,
like the bones of a half-buried animal, they pulled loose
and set up to hold the twine they used
for a makeshift trellis. They planted their sprouts.
As the season advanced, they appeared more
at home. One of them hung art on the remnants of a wall,
portraits painted by children, his own, I guessed,
faces composed of bright colors that matched
the beans and peppers, and tall sunflowers whose
big dials of yellow petals counted down the hours.
Someone mid-summer tried to mend the fence.
A sign was posted: NO TRESPASSING!
PROPERTY FOR SALE.
It didn’t stop them. Today, they are laughing,
picking the ripened fruit and vegetables,
gathering the good in baskets, tossing the bad away.
Their joy, their exuberance in their work,
how could it be for just tomatoes?
Whenever I saw them weeding in the sun,
shirts off, sweat curdling through their skin,
they reminded me of the parable about a man
who sold everything he owned in order to buy
the field where he found a hidden pearl.
Have I misunderstood them? Maybe that heavy, red fruit
is more than enough. But we lived according to the poem:
living within, / you beget, self-out-of-self,
selfless, / the pearl of great price.1
Joel, we haven’t talked in years. I can’t guess anymore
what you are feeling, if your optimism we shared survives.
Addicted to the opium of poetry, I foster in myself
that one impurity, hoping to work it into luster,
but it’s funny to think that all it takes to undo a pearl
is one cup of vinegar.
1 H.D. “The Walls Do Not Fall” 4.43-46
William Welch lives in Utica, NY, where he works as a registered nurse on a critical care unit, and also as editor of Doubly Mad, a literary and visual arts journal published by The Other Side of Utica, Inc. His work has appeared in numerous journals, most recently in Thimble Literary Magazine, Rust+Moth, and Stone Canoe. His poem “The Border” was a finalist for the 2020 Adelaide Literary Award for Poetry.
Tell me what’s so wrong with walking in
when the door is open
and nobody answers your “hullo”
and you’re tired after walking all day
in circles in some stupid wood.
The place looked like they’d run away,
food still on the table,
each bowl microwaved a different temperature,
the middle one hardly heated at all.
And it’s like two cents worth of porridge.
So I’m sorry that chair broke.
What kind of chair is so fragile
that a size zero can’t sit in it?
I said I’d buy the kid a new chair
but noooo, his chair was special
‘cause Daddy built it.
Now they’re calling me a speciesist
because of that remark about opposable thumbs.
Well, how could they have built those chairs and beds
without thumbs? And what are bears doing
with sheets and blankets when they have all that fur?
Plenty of people don’t even have a blanket.
This is a set-up; you just want to use me as an example of
I have feelings, too! But you don’t care.
None of you care that you’ve ruined my life
and I had to wipe out all my social media accounts.
I’ll have to dye my hair—my trademark!—
and build a brand all over again.
Do you have any idea
how much work that is?
Sherry Mossafer Rind
Sherry Mossafer Rind is the author of five collections of poetry and editor of two books about Airedale terriers. She has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Anhinga Press, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission, and King County Arts Commission. Her most recent book is Between States of Matter from The Poetry Box Select Series, 2020.
A year ago if somebody had said AstraZeneca
I would have thought
South African tennis player, German sports car
the hot AK47 toting freedom fighter
that was my imaginary, Nazi slaughtering, girlfriend
in a war I was never in
Even the smugly lensed boffins in Oxford
dipping their Hobnobs, hypothesising
over the powerfully entitled thrust of
Boris Johnson, their sly Megan phantasies
would have calculated a blank.
I was lucky to get it
walked into the no name pharmacy
between anonymous suburbs
on an early spring day
for a grumpy old white man like me, to
stab me with a needle
then mass stab a line of other old white dudes
perhaps thinking, I hope, like me,
we had given another chance, this entitlement
will give us time to understand, what it is to live.
Alan Hill is the former Poet Laureate of the small City of New Westminster in western Canada. He came to Canada in 2005 after meeting his Vietnamese- Canadian wife to be whilst they were both working in Botswana.
you go bats
in bone dry
of night light
there’s no need
to be so shy
come and feed
in the tower
the table set
w/ black flowers
& great eggs
a silver plate
and bowls of blood
raise the ghosts
i cut in the floor
holes i cut
with a sword
Steven Turrill is the author of five books of poetry and the editor of Pine Peak Press. He lives in Los Angeles, CA. You can find him on Instagram and Twitter @turrillsteven.
In the interest of time mothers move
stepwise and as for her a lingering in Mexico City
we lost touch some time ago, my mother reflects moodily. it is a
Monday afternoon and my world’s gone positively Popsicular
the grass was this euphoric entanglement of judgment
as I a king sat in the soft grass
And someone brought me watermelon sliced into precise little cubes
and everything felt round.
well that’s one version of it she says evenly
In some panhandle cabin the moon but a rakish visitor
stopping by for cookies. Her mother commanded her at the sink,
stop howling but she hunting for interpretive freedom
Splintered the task. Brought old light to new deeds in calling
attention to the weariness of form, a realization
which frankly undid me. And her taking a ticket to
The reeds of some unknown city where love was.
Caroline Fernelius is a writer from Texas. Her work has appeared in Storyscape Journal, The Decadent Review, Faultline Journal of Arts and Letters, and elsewhere. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets College Poetry Prize. She currently lives in Ann Arbor, where she is a doctoral candidate in English.
Abnormal, a condition; a way of life; an indicator of otherness; you.
Achievement, you are the aggregate sum of these.
Anorexic, the condition of your identical twin sister in the seventh grade. You are the “fat twin.”
Appearance, how others may tell you your story.
Boston Marathon, a highly competitive race for which you qualify. You are still fat, however.
Bulimic, your condition in high school/college; your condition now.
Clean, the toilet. Thoroughly.
Cross-country, an unhealthy obsession; you are the slow twin. See Running.
Cry, on the bathroom floor. Be ashamed.
Cuts, on the first and third knuckles; see Reye’s Syndrome.
Cyclical, your behavior; other people’s behaviors; human behavior.
Dental problems, increased cavities, extreme sensitivity to hot and cold, wearing away of enamel, chipping of teeth. You have lost one tooth, to date.
Disorder, eating, familiarity.
DSM-5, a formal system of naming otherness; a reference book that cements your identity.
Exercise, over–, something you do that you do not realize until others point it out to you. Your husband tells you that it is abnormal to be on the treadmill at midnight.
Fat, a sub-elite state of being; indisputable proof of people’s laziness/gluttony/inferiority; see Appearance.
Insist, that you are telling the truth.
Intervals, on the track. High school. You push until you see spots. You collapse in the grass. Your heartbeat nails you to the ground.
Jokes, junior high, Is your sister anorexic? Are you the fat twin? Ha, ha.
Kneel, before the toilet, a ritual.
Label, a human tendency.
Love, self–, elusive.
Lying, an art. You are good at it.
Medicine, Abilify, Clonazopam, Klonopin, Lexapro, Lorazopam, Orlistat, Phentermine, Prozac, etc., etc.
Nancy, For the Love of, a TV movie you are made to watch in junior high. It depicts Tracy Gold’s struggle with anorexia. Everyone in the room stares at you and your sister.
Overeating, a coping mechanism. You try this after your sister’s suicide attempt.
Overweight, you become this post-Boston Marathon, shocking everyone.
Purge, a skill. You do it well, and quietly.
Quacks, all the doctors. The therapist, the psychiatrist, the eating disorder specialist, the dietician.
Questionnaire, for the doctor, fill out. Lie.
Racing Weight, a book by Matt Fitzgerald on how to get lean for performance.
Recovery, a visade.
Reye’s Syndrome, a chronic truth-teller.
Running, a tool; a compulsion. Something the eating disorder specialist says you must give up.
Scale, a taskmaster.
Secrets, many. Your sister’s suicide attempt.
Spectrum, eating disorder, you’ve dappled in it all.
Therapy-resistant, an accusation.
Unicorn, the logo of the Boston Athletic Association; see Perfectionism.
Void, feeling, the result of all your achievements.
Vomit, disgusting; abhorrent; do not talk about this.
Weight, how people may be judged and ranked accordingly.
Xeno–, other; different in origin; you.
You, lent your identity to an illness.
Zenith, the highest or most acute point of a condition. You: 96 pounds. Your sister: 84 pounds. Remember, you were always the fat twin.
Natalie Coufal is a nonfiction and fiction writer from rural Central Texas. She is pursuing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing at Sam Houston State University where she has received a fellowship. Her work has appeared in Glassworks, 100 Word Story, Passengers Journal, Touchstone Literary Magazine, Prometheus Dreaming, and others.