A New Day

Waking, I try to drag

my dream into the day

but it stays behind

hiding in the clouds

no more mine

than air itself.

 

In my chair by the window

I reach for what is

out of reach.

 

Will this be the day we rise

and demand justice?

The day we defeat

the pandemic?

The day the angels sing?

 

Outside birds busy

themselves with life.

I watch for a miracle

in the morning light.

 

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.

To Follow Bacchus

It was intoxicating, heady, wild

to drink forbidden liquor from the bowl

that led us unsuspecting, yes, beguiled

to lend the brazen god our very soul.

With placards as our thyrses lifted high,

we clambered up the hill reciting chants,

feverish with need to falsify

the pestilential truths that threaten dance.

Euphoric in our frenzied shibboleths,

our malice, fear and churlishness unmasked,

we taunted and defied the looming deaths

whose meaning we, as one, refused to grasp.

Now winter’s come, his power had to fade.

And we, unblinded, see the masquerade.

 

Mary Hills Kuck

Having retired from teaching English and Communications, first in the US and for many years in Jamaica, Mary Hills Kuck now lives with her family in Massachusetts. She has received a Pushcart Prize Nomination and her poems have appeared in Connecticut River Review, SIMUL: Lutheran Voices in Poetry, Caduceus, The Jamaica Observer Bookends, Fire Stick: A Collection of New & Established Caribbean Poets, the Aurorean, Tipton Poetry Journal, Slant, Main St. Rag, Burningword Literary Journal, and others. Her chapbook, Intermittent Sacraments, will be published by Finishing Line Press in June, 2021.

Class Reunion

Gusts and ghosts, the rattle of traps, the tap of rain asking to be let in or out. It’s still January but the year’s already tired of itself, tossing calendars in the recycling and putting down deposits on a whole new set of dates. I’m finding it hard to distinguish between sleeping and waking as I sit to break bread with schoolmates I’ve not seen since the 60s. I know that most of them are dead, but they don’t, and to tell them seems unfair, or at least a breach of unstated etiquette; so, I answer their questions about my job and why everyone’s wearing masks, and pass the new potatoes clockwise around the table. All the while, those tiny sounds of an old house in an old year are converging into something that’s close enough to music for those kids from the Music Club to pull out their fiddles and accordions and join in with the squeaks and sighs. Everyone is leaning in and smiling, chorusing a song of rain and paper-thin leaves, and plumping pumpkins; but when I take a photo to share online – #justlikehalloween #goodtimes – even my own face is missing.

 

Oz Hardwick

Oz Hardwick is a European poet, photographer, occasional musician, and accidental academic, whose work has been published and performed internationally in and on diverse media. His prose poetry chapbook Learning to Have Lost (Canberra: IPSI, 2018) won the 2019 Rubery International Book Award for poetry, and his most recent publication is the prose poetry sequence Wolf Planet (Clevedon: Hedgehog, 2020). He has also edited or co-edited several anthologies, including The Valley Press Anthology of Prose Poetry (Scarborough: Valley Press, 2019) with Anne Caldwell. Oz is Professor of English at Leeds Trinity University, where he leads the postgraduate Creative Writing programmes. www.ozhardwick.co.uk

Songs In The Key Of Going

Seventeen, quit school, lied my way

into nineteen and a night-shift job.

When the world settled into dusk,

I’d ride the Bathurst streetcar to the stockyards,

walk past the cattle pens, gusts off the lake

braiding their calls with the growl

of shunting box-cars.

 

I worked alone, hauled skids of meat

through a maze of rooms and freight elevators,

buzz-saw of neon slicing the silence.

Within an hour I’d be talking to myself

pushing the skid–loader, singing

songs to keep from being haunted,

the endless body parts and boxed meat.

 

After midnight, I’d go out the sixth-floor fire escape,

look for the north star, an imposter

lying without knowing why.

The world still as a dead sparrow,

I mined dreams from the dark hallways,

thought that when I’d made enough,

I’d take the train across the prairies

before the snow came, find a way to start over.

 

Day men brought the rumors of light,

prodded the steers up to an elevated pen.

Shot, the floor split open and the body

slid down a chute to the kill floor,

cut apart in twelve minutes.

How fast life vanished,

how little time there was

if you were ever caught lying.

 

I’d walk to the time-clock room, surprised

to see my name-card with all the others,

bellowed two-note laments riding the air

before the slam of the floor-gate.

Out in the land of schemes, calls

sticking to me like the smell of wood-smoke,

I’d drift to sleep at the back

of the morning’s first street-car,

rail-joints click-clack heartbeat.

 

Mark Burke

Mark Burke’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the North American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sugar House Review, Nimrod International Journal and others. His work has recently been nominated for a Pushcart prize. See: markanthonyburkesongsandpoems.com

A Street Named Wherever

I was taking my five o’clock walk and was about to turn down the street I had lived on all my life when I suddenly realized it wasn’t that street at all. It was a street I had never seen before.  This is what happens when you do things automatically. You stop seeing what’s around you. Like the fact that, at this moment, a crack in the sidewalk was rapidly widening into a deep gorge. I stopped just in time, peering down at a blue river far below. The whole gorge was bathed in the kind of pink glow you sometimes see at dawn that makes you want to jump out of bed and set off on an adventure. Long I stood there, oblivious to the honking traffic and sirens. I eyed a narrow ledge winding down along the walls, and a parade of people merrily laughing and singing as they descended into the depths. I thought I heard the faint strain of a drinking song I once knew in college. I waved and one of them waved back, inviting me to join them. I was just about to do so when I observed farther down that both the ledge and the parade came to an abrupt end as, one by one, people jumped into the gorge, all flapping their arms for a time as they plummeted to their certain deaths. Why did they flap their arms, I wondered? And why on earth didn’t they stop? Were they all insane? In vain, I yelled at them, but the mad procession continued in a grim wave of falling, flapping specks of humanity. Helplessly, I stared down at the river, oh so blue it broke my heart. And in that moment, I suddenly understood all the mysteries of life and death and the pull of a river that could make someone follow it wherever it leads. I felt an irresistible urge to join them. It was then that I realized that the gorge was slowly closing as the hidden world zipped shut beneath me, leaving nothing but a crack in the sidewalk. I stood there, befuddled. Then I realized my mistake. I had taken a left instead of a right. Resuming my walk, I resolved to pay better attention to where I am going.

 

Gene Twaronite

Gene Twaronite is a Tucson poet, essayist, and children’s fiction writer. He is the author of ten books, including two juvenile fantasy novels as well as collections of essays, short stories, and poems. His poetry book Trash Picker on Mars (Kelsay Books) was the winner of the 2017 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Arizona poetry. His latest poetry collection is The Museum of Unwearable Shoes. Follow more of Gene’s writing at his website: thetwaronitezone.com.

Morning Breath

After sleeping

for hours, I am still waiting

to exhale

morning breath,

 

so I can spit

into my bathroom sink

with a healthy squeeze

of toothpaste.

 

I breathe in again

and hold it again,

like noxious-fumes avoidance

or a morning bong hit.

 

I waste scant time

gargling mouthwash

like pickle shots,

popping placebos like Xanax,

 

sucking fresh air,

changing my paradigm,

changing the font

on my nameplate,

 

changing my password

to something less accessible

but honest,

changing reality itself.

 

I am frantic to exhale

and spit.

Because, in the morning,

I gasp for breath.

 

Eric Blanchard

Growing up in Houston, Texas, Eric Blanchard dreamed of dropping out of high school, but when the haze of adolescence cleared, he found himself in law school instead. After being a trial lawyer for a decade and a half, he ran away to Ohio, where he taught school and lived a mindful life for about a minute. Eventually, he returned home to help care for his parents. Eric’s poetry has been included in numerous collections, both online and in hard copy. In 2013, his prose poem “The Meeting Ran Long” was nominated for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net anthology. His chapbook, The Good Parts, was published in January 2020 by Finishing Line Press.

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