lived next door.
Does that still count?
He was Protestant.
I was Catholic.
We were a hundred sacraments apart.
The kiss was quick, a dry pinched peck.
I didn’t even have time to close my eyes
like the flawless girls in the Saturday movies
Later when I confessed
to my Catholic classmates
there was an audible gasp.
Startlingly, Mary Beth didn’t say:
You KISSED a boy!
She said, you kissed a PROTESANT
as if I had said
I kissed a blind goat
Jerry grew up and moved away,
I grew weary of Catholic boys, apostles,
Catechism. Catechism. Catechism.
Maybe that’s why I married a Hindu.
And the first time I kissed my husband-to-be
it was fierce and long and wet
and I thought
Gail Ghai is a graduate of the University of Alberta and a Fellow in Writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Her poetry has appeared in literary journals including The Malahat Review, Jama, the Yearbook of American Poetry and The Delhi-London Quarterly. Awards include a Pushcart Prize nomination and a Henry C. Frick scholarship for creative teaching. She is the author of three chapbooks of poetry as well as an art/writing poster entitled, “Painted Words. Ghai works as an ESL instructor for the Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton, FL and also serves as the moderator of the Ringling Poets in Sarasota, FL.
It’s so much work to stay alive
but living has its payoffs
sunset so stunning it burns your eyes
mathematical precision in a seashell
an unexpected kind word
in a foreign city
not that any of these will fix
the human condition
after all there’s a graveyard
but such small grace notes
can lighten the load
Like when you teared up
kissing that girl good-bye
in the Yugoslav train station
all those years ago and the men
nearby wiped their eyes as well
and patted your shoulder
in solidarity—no matter
you shared no language
no lived experience, you
a U.S. vagabond surrounded
by Slovenian workers
The station was shabby, squalid
yet the memory of their kindness
lifts your spirits still
Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 75 print and online journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her most recent publication is Muslim Wife (Blue Lyra Press, 2019). She is also the author of The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table. Zakariya blogs at www.butdoesitrhyme.com.
For fifty years, we lived
at the bend in Spring Creek
where the stream turns
back on itself,
in a shingled Cape Cod
too small for the family
and dreadfully cold.
The creek’s ceaseless song
captained our seasons—
the slow murmur
of half-frozen water
holding tenuously to life
or the great green rush
of an early thaw.
Each spring we bailed
trying to keep our poor boat afloat—
fearing any minute
we might have to swim for it.
How our children learned
to hate that sodden season.
They are grown now
and scattered here and there
like the spray of water on rock.
It seems forever since a visit.
The oldest, Jillie, tells me
it took years to get the creek
out of her head.
I drove past the old place today—
much of the roof is collapsed and jagged.
I like to watch the fly fisherman
pluck rainbows from their hidden holes,
with a grace beyond my understanding.
And then, at sunset,
the creek and I head home.
Steve Deutsch lives in State College, PA. His recent publications have or will appear in 8 Poems, Louisiana Lit, Burningword Literary Journal, The Write Launch, Biscuit Root Drive, Evening Street, Better Than Starbucks, Flashes of Brilliance, San Antonio Review, Softblow, Mojave River Review, The Broadkill Review, Linden Avenue Literary Journal, Panoply, Algebra of Owls, The Blue Nib, Thimble Magazine, The Muddy River Poetry Review, Ghost City Review, Borfski Press, Streetlight Press, Gravel, Literary Heist, Nixes Mate Review, Third Wednesday, Misfit Magazine, Word Fountain, Eclectica Magazine, The Drabble, New Verse News and The Ekphrastic Review. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His Chapbook, “Perhaps You Can,” was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full length book, Persistence of Memory will be published by Kelsay in September 2020.
You must build doors
to invite people in
is what they’ve told me
since the funeral,
but these are coddled,
idiots, the open
floor plans of people.
They lust after beige:
nice and wanting
nothing. What I want
is to pause
and talk to them
like we talked
to her in hospice.
You look for twigs
to coax them
to grass, deliver them
from the threat
of neighborhood kids
who love nothing
inside their rooms
and would murder
for candy, or pets
they would let die.
They are too young
to love a better way.
To close these doors
built to nowhere,
doors flung open
just for them
to hurtle through.
Emily Kingery is an Associate Professor of English at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, Iowa, where she teaches courses in literature, writing, and linguistics. Her work appears or is forthcoming in multiple literary journals, including Eastern Iowa Review, Gingerbread House, High Shelf Press, New South, PROEM, Prometheus Dreaming, Quercus, and Telepoem Booth, and she has been a Pushcart Prize nominee. She serves on the Board of Directors at the Midwest Writing Center, a non-profit organization that supports writers in the Quad Cities community.
The heart has abdicated feeling.
I have enough to do, all this beating, all this pumping.
Builds a wall to harden the pericardium.
Feels the shearing less.
Knows it is ultimately useless and easily scaled,
the breakthrough scorching.
In the heart’s determined absence,
the digestive track takes up the slack, but can’t stomach it.
Bile, bubbling lava, ire, rise along the esophageal membranes.
What does make it down is hardly digestible,
only present due to the sheer volume of forced feeding.
The small intestine is especially overworked,
separating the pure from the unpure, the true from the untrue,
the useful from the corrupted, too big a job
So nearly all passes on to the large intestine,
which just wants more water.
The lungs, the lungs are crying,
damp or charred,
ash floating, hacking up bits of themselves,
too many fires burning, too many on the edge of the last exhale.
Seeking solace on hard granite,
weep into the mother’s embrace
even as she suffers.
The nervous system is trigger-happy.
The hand tremors unrelenting.
Good time not to have a gun.
The interstitial swamps,
lowdown fluids between/among
are in the best shape, not frozen, not making off
with the last energy in the treasury.
Steady, slow, tidal,
still taking cues from the moon
but in need of water.
The feet run.
The hands want to strangle.
The spine contorts under jeopardy.
The endocrine system would just like
the right drugs to fuck its brains out.
The mouth and vocal chords,
more inarticulate than not,
garble, gurgle, sputter, spewing
The central canal, the core,
aligning with the earth’s magma
unconcerned with blue, waits
for vents, fissures, some pore, some open vein
to come erupting out
with precision and deadly aim.
But the cells
in their unwavering, egalitarian democracy,
in their trillions, all still work together,
each with its small input, need, job,
in this way to keep the whole alive.
The mind, once tethered by the heart, is disembodied,
wracked in this climate of isolation.
shouting for water.
Karin Spitfire is the author of Standing with Trees and a chapbook “Wild Caught.” Her poem “Liquidation” won the national first place in the 2019 Joe Gouveia Outermost Poetry Contest, sponsored by WOMR, Provincetown. Her poems have appeared in 3 Nations Anthology, You Say. Say, on-line journals, Canary: A Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis, The Catch: Writings from Downeast, Trivia: Voices of Feminism, and print journals, Off the Coast, The Aurorean, Rootdrinker, Currents, the Journal of Body Mind Centering. “What is to be Offered published in The Kerf, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She was the Poet Laureate of Belfast, Me in 2007 & 2008.
We are lost
in Viagra’d beds,
in sticky, spilled orange sidewalk pop,
in black sidewalk gum,
in sidewalk blood,
in blood cough,
in closing time at McDonald’s.
We are lost
under the weight of breathing.
Our reality show is unwatched.
We are lost alone.
We are lost
under control of blank-heart marketers.
We are directionless, hopeless, homeless,
without peace, untouched, cross-nailed.
Tell me we aren’t.
We count down our two thousand million seconds.
We hear the raw prophesy in our blood pulse.
We know awful solitude.
We are lost
far behind the pack,
in the sandstorm, on calmless seas, in ever-dark alleys,
forgotten in our time-out corner,
forgotten on our bassinette, strapped,
ignored in our unworthiness,
turned away from —
after the lights go off, on mean streets
and dream streets and yellow-brick streets,
unvoted for, unselected, unbirthed, untouched.
Enduring, on the road, in ravened embrace.
We are lost
as we hold blooded hands
and keel into the pounding falls.
Exhaling, exhaling, all is exhaling. Then, silence.
We are lost in our SUV, in our Humvee,
on our mountain bike, on foot, wheelchaired,
gurneyed into the operating room,
gurneyed to the basement coolers —
on the armied dark beach,
unable to climb bloody down from our fatal tree,
reaching across the chasm,
in grave and ash and scattered bones.
There is no lost paradise.
We are lost to decay, to rot, to corruption, to death —
We are lost as we hold hands.
We are lost
behind the Oak Lawn house,
on the bloody grass.
We are lost
as we hold hands
for the walk to the chamber.
We are lost
Patrick T. Reardon
Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of eight books, including the poetry collection Requiem for David and Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence His poetry has appeared in Silver Birch Press, San Antonio Review, Eclectica, Esthetic Apostle, Ground Fresh Thursday, Literary Orphans, Rhino, Spank the Carp, Main Street Rag, The Write Launch, Meat for Tea, Tipton Poetry Journal, UCity Review, Under a Warm Green Linden and The Write City.