Up the bent walk to
the house door, stops
at the steps, smells
the dryness of fall in
the late October air.
as the breeze tousles
his hair and forgets
for a moment the key
in his hand.
Something a young girl
said, maybe, or a
woman standing, breaking
a sprig of lilac,
turning: eyes damp.
We cannot know what
stops him, what holds
the key suspended in
his hand, his head
turned as if to listen.
As he would not say,
locked on that moment,
his face expressionless
to tell joy or grief,
tempered, far away.
Trent Busch, a native of rural West Virginia, now lives in Georgia where he writes and makes furniture. His recent books of poetry, “not one bit of this is your fault” (2019) and “Plumb Level and Square” (2020) were published by Cyberwit.net. His poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Poetry, The Nation, Threepenny Review, North American Review, Chicago Review, Southern Review, Georgia Review, New England Review, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, Northwest Review, Kenyon Review, American Scholar, Shenandoah, Boston Review, and Hudson Review. His poem “Edges of Roads” was the 2016 First Place winner of the Margaret Reid Poetry Prize.
Heavy weighted blanket, legs half-out, rain against the window,
you whispered, “what if it gets old? what if you get bored
“It won’t and I won’t,” I said.
The smell of warm linen, chest swelling
Oh honey, it would be a blessing
to grow old and bored with you
(just to be with you),
and should there be a loss of love
(I write love but mean passion, puppy-love)
in the years to come—
no wild nights into sleepless mornings, no constant hand-on-thigh,
no attentive eyes, no planned dates—
I would learn it again,
remind myself, reread my letters,
grow curious afresh,
in body, soul, and mind,
in duty and promise,
in decision and action,
even in dry periods with no joy,
Alexandra T. O. Cooley
Alexandra T. O. Cooley is a poet and graduate student from Alabama. She is currently a pursuing an MA in English from Jacksonville State University and hopes to pursue an MFA in creative writing after graduating. She loves making lists, petting animals, and planning vacations with her husband, James.
How many bodies can
be held in refrigerated
trailers, giving families
time to claim them?
The number of those,
at the public cemetery
in New York, increased
five-fold in April.
Outside a Brooklyn
funeral home, dozens
of decomposing bodies
were found in one
and one rented U-Haul.
Eighteen thousand dead
in eighteen thousand
body bags are moved
by forklift to one
hundred and fifty
fifteen rented vans.
Dedicated Carnivore At the TSA
grab the tape
you had firmly affixed
round the lid of the cooler.
her as she
dove into its white hold
and brought up the brown pork butt.
what it was,
each piece before replacing
ham then the
and its smoked bacon, vacuum-
watching such a precious
cargo being lifted out.
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.
Restless in pleasure’s absence,
I watched when my mother woke,
startled by a rooster
that chimed and paced
on the barbed wire fence.
She pulled the sheet
over her shoulder, sank
into the cushion and lingered
a moment longer
while I pretended to be asleep.
Each morning for the past two years
she turned the crown well
of my father’s watch
how he used to do
before getting out of bed.
My father mostly spoke
the truth, but he lied
when he told me
he liked my jagged bangs
the last time we went to visit.
It took my mother one afternoon
to trim them herself
with a pair of shears
she borrowed from a shepherd
living down the hill.
We both squinted
when we heard a soldier’s whistle.
My father, thinner now, came toward us,
his lips pursed in a frown,
and his hands curled in fists.
Melissa Andrés is a poet. Originally from Cuba, she arrived in the United States at the age of six. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in The Laurel Review, Rattle Magazine, The San Antonio Review, Ligeia Magazine, and Inkwell Journal, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
A Yezidi woman sits across from me
her eyes are flat black
like no eyes should look
as if her spirit has been sucked
backward through her body
to fly away somewhere else
“Is it true?”
her handler asks me
“Is it true what ISIS did to the children?”
She starts to cry
great rolling tears
streaking her face black mourning mascara.
I seek safety inside myself
in a world that offers none.
Is it true?
is it true?
It is true.
I hear her voice
asking over and over
like the crows now cawing over mass graves
as the Yezidi woman gazes
but not at me.
Susan Notar has flown over Iraq in helicopters wearing body armor and makes a mean beurre blanc sauce. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including Gyroscope, Written in Arlington, Antologia de Poemas Alianza Latina, Penumbra, Joys of the Table An Anthology of Culinary Verse, Springtime in Winter: An Ekphrastic Study in Art, Poetry, and Music. She works at the U.S. State Department helping vulnerable communities in the Middle East.
Bench Warrant Wednesday
You’re finally back in your hometown,
only snow greets your arrival.
Court date’s in a few hours,
just time to check into some
cheap hotel and change into clothes
that say I’m a good girl, clothes
that’ll be dumped at the charity shop
after free breakfast, local bank,
and go pay the fine tomorrow.
No time for visiting or sightseeing—
you’ll see all you want from the train
on the head-out-of-town express.
Window cracked to let a thin stream of smoke out,
you breathe in the incense of pines,
catch a quick glimpse of your old house
a little more canted, a lot less yours.
All the wildflowers buried deep until spring
do nothing to coax you back,
and you leave this town that doesn’t bear repeating
once again, the stillness of dusk broken only
by wisps of winter shadows through the trees,
a jukebox song of wild horses in your mind.
The Year of No Men
Granny’s on the front porch with me
playing gin and drinking gin.
I have a Jolt Cola to keep awake.
Mama’s coming to get me soon,
take me to the monthly family day
at the corrections house just down the road.
They call it “house” so it sounds nice,
but you can’t just leave when you want.
Daddy’s there for a while and that’s all I know.
We got a one-year lease on a nice double-wide,
Granny’s a couple rows over.
Other ladies and kids mostly fill in the rest.
Mama goes over to our real house every few weeks,
waters the plants, grabs up the bills,
cleans the messages off the garage door.
I don’t get to go ‘cause those messages—
they’re not too nice most times and mama says
I’m too young to understand.
So she brings me back a lemon pie
from the gas station mini mart
and I watch Granny get stuporfied.
Took a lotta years living
before I could sift through the truth
of our time at the trailer park,
and I made a lot of promises to myself
after that: no bail, no messages
written on any garage doors cause of me,
and gin would always be cards, jelly jars
only for juice and for baking, and “house”
would mean house, with toys in the yard.
Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. “Slices of Alice & Other Character Studies” was published by Cholla Needles Press. “Symmetry: earth and sky” was published by Main Street Rag. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (www.bluehorsepress.com).