The First Boy I Kissed

Jerry Rubin

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

with leprosy.

 

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

Hare Krishna!

Hare Ram!

 

Gail Ghai

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.

Grace Notes

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

beneath everything

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

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.

Quotidian

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

the basement

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.

 

Steven Deutsch

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.

Safety

You must build doors

to invite people in

 

is what they’ve told me

since the funeral,

 

but these are coddled,

runny-hearted

 

idiots, the open

floor plans of people.

 

They lust after beige:

plush-carpet beige,

 

nice and wanting

nothing. What I want

 

is to pause

for caterpillars

 

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

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 Body Under Late-Stage Capitalism

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

everything,

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

silent.

 

The central canal, the core,

aligning with the earth’s magma

roaring, roiling

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,

praying

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

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.

The lost tribes, part 4

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.

 

Listen.

 

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,

unworthy,

unworthy,

unworthy,

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 —

from birth.

 

We are lost as we hold hands.

 

We are lost

behind the Oak Lawn house,

holding hands

on the bloody grass.

 

We are lost

as we hold hands

for the walk to the chamber.

 

We are lost

together

alone.

 

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.

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