Stepping

When I go to places

The seaside

I am already leaving there

Rehoboth Beach

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

To bold

To bright

A seagull screams just once

And dissolves in my skull

Naked sun

She milks my pupils

Opalescent to blind

At dawn

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

Glossy mallards

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

Boomerang two

Not returning

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

The Flat

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

Liquid chimes

Teacups resting in their saucers

On top of a walking tray

Treed place

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

Nine steps

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.

Modern Medicine

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.

Rich Ives, Featured Author

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).

 

Resurrection

die

just once

while you are still breathing

here

this moment

where your skin is submerged

and there is nothing to be

owned

bought

lost

or gained

now

omnipotence

holding highest joy

and utter despair

one

without preference

stop

everything and

notice the flow of your life

continues without

pushing and pulling

perhaps in spite of it

die

and wake

to taste your exquisite life

 

Matthew Mumber

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.

Lowell Jaeger, Featured Author

Sugar-White Beaches

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.

 

The Bubbles

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.

Three Cathedrals

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.

We’d Planned

to pull the blinds,

uncork champagne,

jitterbug naked

— your mother and I —

inside the empty nest.

You slammed the hatch

on your Subaru, its bursting load

of fantasies and mysteries boxed,

pillowcases stuffed

with plush bears.

Smiled, waved, honked,

and sped away.  Our last,

at last

college-bound.

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

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.

Aged

Dusty, moldy, musty

Yellowed, brown stained

Wrinkled, tattered pages

Faded ink, missing leaves

Broken spine

Forgotten on the shelf

Few visitors

 

Antiseptic smell

Darkened, liver spots

Wrinkled, translucent skin

Gray, thinning hair

Achy back, swollen joints

Forgotten in the home

Few visitors

 

Have all their pages been written?

 

Priceless, rare editions

Stores of wisdom

Treasured stories

 

Will all their pages be read?

 

Suzanne Cottrell

 

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.