When I go to places
I am already leaving there
More water than sand
More sky than water
Bones of fish laid bare
A new tableau each morning
Tides take back
All that they lay down
Washing me to white
A seagull screams just once
And dissolves in my skull
She milks my pupils
Opalescent to blind
I see dead birds
Banking fast from clouds
My cousin Eddie
Arc of his returning boomerang
A spinning, skimming whir
Over the green, the coppery
Old pennies for heads
Pumpkin orange feet
Folded under what floats and bobs
At the edges of Camp Brule Lake
Startled flock rising
Quaking the water lilies
Seesaw tipping frogs into leaps
A melee of flaps and squawks
My cousin Vernon now
Arm bent back as an arrow to its bow
One unlucky heartbeat
Twirling into tailspin
A roped corpse to splash
So boys can cheer
And echo echo echo
I am already returning
To Camp Brule Lake
Spilling into Elk Creek
Who pauses and changes her clothes
Expanse of silt and limestone
Red shale and watercress
Big enough for two pickups
Nature’s Car Wash
In between cascades
A waterfall at the top
A waterfall at the bottom
Teacups resting in their saucers
On top of a walking tray
Entombing the cold pools
Where fish can stand still
I step across The Flat
To the other side
Soles on the same level parts of the same stones
I’ve made it
The slippery silt covers me
Cloaked in branches and tangle
Caught without my own feet at the seaside
I dissolve into backgrounds brushed and shaded
Into the shadows of the places who know me
by Virginia Watts
Virginia Watts has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, recently in Ruminate Magazine’s Readers’ Notes and her nonfiction story “Marti’s Father” appears in Volume 1, Issue 2 of Ponder Review, Fall 2017. This story has been nominated for a 2018 Pushcart Prize.
This thing I wear around me like a talisman is copper from the earth I don’t know why it stains my skin but a healing naked mumbling tribesman will rub shaman ashes into my wounds while cucumbers settle on my lids and warm eggs in the air pool like small white pills reconstructing a sweat lodge meditating body and knife blades part cells of thin skins while the medicinal value of broccoli calcium olive oil and silver coins I stole from the old man watching the pizza-maker twirling golden dough into leafy green crusts while walking through the goat cheese bazaar with chest lumps while I’m on the way to the dentist dancers thumping in dust their nude buttery feet drawing life through straws from a thickened vessel racing room to room wax on wax separating off your melting and porous spine trying to find the clue bombarded by small radiant bullets and rhinoceros horn shark fin yoga light against the bone amidst cries of the pouring of liquids syrups elixirs milk of nuts and hanging fruit sultry wine the anti-oxidants corrective cleansing goldenseal grounding my existence warding off the slow creeping pressing diving thin hollow needles and the mushrooms dried in hot air and dead vegetable matter playa mud sucking pores soft touch of my hand an icy salve a song in the dark and rough memories alive and you wanting every spice every action every soothing voice the comfort of aboriginal fire a thin line of vaccinating friendship the thick repeating muscle of another.
by Brad Garber
Brad has degrees in biology, chemistry and law. He writes, paints, draws, photographs, hunts for mushrooms and snakes, and runs around naked in the Great Northwest. Since 1991, he has published poetry, essays and weird stuff in such publications as Edge Literary Journal, Pure Slush, On the Rusk Literary Journal, Sugar Mule, Third Wednesday, Barrow Street, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Barzakh Magazine, Five:2:One, Ginosko Journal, Vine Leaves Press, Riverfeet Press, Smoky Blue Literary Magazine, Aji Magazine and other quality publications. 2013 & 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee.
An Essay on Indifference
the technology was basic and difficult to understand
the outside seemed to have removed itself from interference
as in vice applied to territory as in acceptance of questionable forethought
as in don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone
No One appeared like a young boy popping out of a white shirt
No One said this No One only had to (you’re back let’s get it over with)
every agent doubled every unsung witness
no limp but each careful verbal shoe still lisping
No One knew the workers were already detached (you could open them all
with hinges placed at inappropriate but functional locations)
as in will you skate with my terrible monkey
as in honoring the bright intrusions of ice cream
each one emitted a solvent suggesting the activities of deciduous bees
each one chalky with deposits worried and singing (scanned for hidden pleasures)
as in delightful with errant salvage
as in beautifully mistaken narratives of gathering
delicate ice gathered therefore in persuasion of a fish-skin purse
No One found in this the thawing joker
as in a testimony as in A Testimony
as in clarity: inadequate
a variety of phonetic closet-signal remained as yet uncatalogued
in favor of a fluid thrush caged in aspic (parenthetically speaking)
as in cautiously following my anticipatory shoes
as in a small life of delicate conveyance
No One arrived on time for the several precautionary proceedings because
No One was not there to merely notice
that’s not always what No One does when you ignore No One
in the rain he looks old again as in the snow unborn
No One has told the truth so much about having fun he’ll have to lie about the sadness
he really doesn’t know which irony that is which gives the sadness a certain pleasure
by Rich Ives
Rich Ives has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Artist Trust, Seattle Arts Commission and the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines for his work in poetry, fiction, editing, publishing, translation and photography. His writing has appeared in Verse, North American Review, Massachusetts Review, Northwest Review, Quarterly West, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Fiction Daily and many more. He is the 2009 winner of the Francis Locke Memorial Poetry Award from Bitter Oleander. He has been nominated seven times for the Pushcart Prize. He is the 2012 winner of the Thin Air Creative Nonfiction Award. His books include Light from a Small Brown Bird (Bitter Oleander Press–poetry), Sharpen (The Newer York-fiction chapbook), The Ballooon Containing the Water Containing the Narrative Begins Leaking-What Books) and Tunneling to the Moon (Silenced Press–hybrid).
while you are still breathing
where your skin is submerged
and there is nothing to be
holding highest joy
and utter despair
notice the flow of your life
pushing and pulling
perhaps in spite of it
to taste your exquisite life
Matthew Mumber MD is a practicing, board certified radiation oncologist with the Harbin Clinic in Rome, Georgia. He received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Virginia and completed his radiation oncology residency at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine. He graduated from the 2002 Associate Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona and is a graduate of the inaugural class of the Living School for Action and Contemplation through the Rohr Institute. Matt founded Cancer Navigators Inc. in 2002, a 501c3 corporation which provides nurse, education and service navigation for those touched by cancer. He continues to facilitate residential retreats and groups for cancer patients and physicians. Matt took poetry writing classes under Debra Nystrom while at UVA and has continued to write, and just recently has begun to seek publication of his poems. He has published two health and wellness books.
Such a never-ending winter, these months
of snow and ice and gloom. We’ve lost
long hours again today, pushing back
last night’s leaden blanket of wet white,
mounding piles shoulder-high, towering
till they avalanche as if to mock our labors.
The wind whips our cheekbones red
and wet and raw, my wife and I,
our shovels lufting slush, lungs puffing
huffs and grunts . . . when, within a waking dream,
she says, That sugar-white beach
in Isla Mujeres, remember? I nod,
a touch of warmth, a blush, floods over me,
a smile. Side-by-side we replay these memories,
wordlessly, relishing not just the mind’s rescue
but something bone-deep having bubbled up
like steaming waters from the earth’s core.
And I remember, as a kid, that same sensation,
a resurrection out of the depths of near hopelessness,
our schoolyard in late March beginning to thaw.
One brown patch of lawn opened where snows had receded,
and we gathered there all recess, huddled in awe.
Jet-lagged, we snugged the covers over our ears
to muffle las campanas de la catedral, tolling.
Stepped into the midday sun, blinded by how far
the day had progressed without us. Hungry
enough to settle for a vendor’s cart menu,
plastic tables and worn umbrellas, across from the plaza
where someone had switched on
fountains of spray hissing skyward and falling,
sizzling on the hot streets like rain.
Not a fountain, really, but jets
or nozzles embedded in the cobbles and brickwork,
firing at random for the simple screams
of barefoot niňos dashing to soak
their camisetas y pantelones for the joy of what
dazzle might rise on a Sunday afternoon.
And did I mention the children blowing bubbles?
Not blowing them, really, but throwing them
from homemade coat-hanger wands dipped
in pails of sudsy dish soap. Huge soap balloons
taking shape as the children twirled and laughed.
Families cheering the bubbles as each rose toward the sun,
undulating liquid rainbows. Kaleidoscopic rainbows!
As my wife and I held hands across the table,
glad to be in love amidst the bustle,
this world’s wondrous and baffling extravagance,
thousands of miles from home.
Our strategy for this day: don’t waste it
roaming the cobbles in the aimless manner
we’d diddled away the hours yesterday —
my customary druthers when accustoming myself
to a foreign locale. I like to simply set out walking,
let each new intersection dictate which way to go.
But this day at breakfast, a sunlit street-side café,
you opened the guidebook and made plans. We’d locate
the burial site of the young peasant, a revolutionary. The one
who gave his life — or so the story alleges —
not for his flag, but for the welfare of his wife and children.
You passed the map across the table, without speaking,
and pointed to our destination, tapping gently with one finger
on the exact coordinates of your chosen goal.
All morning we searched street names, asking directions,
straining to comprehend a few words of a language
not our own, charging this way and that,
until past noon we stopped for a glass of wine,
conceding we were lost. Something between us,
lost. I couldn’t guess what it was. Except that our son
and daughters were grown and gone. And when we rose
to go again, we had nowhere particular in mind, meandering
across the plaza, stepping recklessly through traffic,
lured by cathedral doors thrown wide.
In the darkness inside, I studied the carved-wood altar.
Someone might have mistaken my mumbling as a prayer.
You lit a votive and set it reverently beside dozens
of strangers’ wishes flaming. Three cathedrals
we explored that afternoon — their spires rising on the skyline,
easy to find. This day I now recall in its vaulted ceilings.
And a sadness in you, hushed at depths I’d scarcely divined.
You, slipping pesos into the slotted donation box. You,
igniting brightness. I’d give my life for you
and the children, I thought. You, your face aglow
amidst a thousand flickering shadows.
I’d never loved you more.
to pull the blinds,
— your mother and I —
inside the empty nest.
You slammed the hatch
on your Subaru, its bursting load
of fantasies and mysteries boxed,
with plush bears.
Smiled, waved, honked,
and sped away. Our last,
We stood at the window
— your mother and I —
and breathed silence.
She simmered a Mexican stew
later that afternoon, which
side-by-side across from your place
at the table, we sipped
spoon by spoon.
Lowell Jaeger (Montana Poet Laureate 2017-2019) is founding editor of Many Voices Press, author of seven collections of poems, recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Montana Arts Council, and winner of the Grolier Poetry Peace Prize. Most recently Jaeger was awarded the Montana Governor’s Humanities Award for his work in promoting thoughtful civic discourse.
Dusty, moldy, musty
Yellowed, brown stained
Wrinkled, tattered pages
Faded ink, missing leaves
Forgotten on the shelf
Darkened, liver spots
Wrinkled, translucent skin
Gray, thinning hair
Achy back, swollen joints
Forgotten in the home
Have all their pages been written?
Priceless, rare editions
Stores of wisdom
Will all their pages be read?
Suzanne Cottrell, an Ohio buckeye by birth, lives with her husband and three rescue dogs in rural Piedmont North Carolina. An outdoor enthusiast and retired teacher, she enjoys hiking, biking, gardening, and Pilates. She loves nature and its sensory stimuli and particularly enjoys writing and experimenting with poetry and flash fiction. Her poetry has appeared in The Avocet, The Weekly Avocet, The Remembered Arts Journal, Plum Tree Tavern, The Skinny Poetry Journal, Three Line Poetry, Haiku Journal, Tanka Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Dragon Poet Review, and Naturewriting.