Late October Air

Up the bent walk to

the house door, stops

at the steps, smells

the dryness of fall in

the late October air.

 

Remembers something

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

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.

The Absence of Joy in Love

Heavy weighted blanket, legs half-out, rain against the window,

you whispered, “what if it gets old? what if you get bored

with me?”

“It won’t and I won’t,” I said.

“But if.”

“If?”

The smell of warm linen, chest swelling

like infatuation.

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,

Love you.

 

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.

Featured Author: E. Laura Golberg

Logistics, 2020

 

How many bodies can

be held in refrigerated

trailers, giving families

time to claim them?

 

The number of those,

anonymous, buried

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

tractor-trailer

and one rented U-Haul.

 

Eighteen thousand dead

in eighteen thousand

body bags are moved

by forklift to one

hundred and fifty

refrigerated trailers,

fifteen rented vans.

 

Dedicated Carnivore At the TSA

 

I

watched you

watch her

grab the tape

you had firmly affixed

round the lid of the cooler.

 

Rip

she went.

You watched

her as she

dove into its white hold

and brought up the brown pork butt.

 

She

made sure

she knew

what it was,

carefully rotating

each piece before replacing

 

it,

extract-

ing that

ham then the

Fanestil baloney

and its smoked bacon, vacuum-

 

packed.

You were

the new

Miriam,

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.

The Watch

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 Andres

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.

Yezidi, Northern Iraq

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

somewhere safe

before

Kocho

Sinjar.

 

“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

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.

Tobi Alfier

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

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).

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