Her scent no longer on your face attests
the word apartment is no accident —
it’s parceling, like beans from squash
or like the homebound from the lost.
As gardens, so with rooms: and yet upon
this whisking of tea powder in a bowl
until the conjured swirl displays
the roily froth of all our days,
consider, when our children see the crush
of fragrant yarrow on our backs and shins,
how in telling plain and glad
we might profess the myriad
reckonings of love, that from a fall
when everything, impossibly, is spring,
this place, since from bereavement taken,
may canopy the paths of the forsaken.
Greg Sendi a Chicago writer and former fiction editor at Chicago Review. In the past year, his poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of literary magazines and online outlets, including Apricity, The Briar Cliff Review, Clarion, CONSEQUENCE, The Masters Review, Plume, Pulp Literature, San Antonio Review and upstreet among others.
Grackles fly over the doll factory.
Dolls reach out their stiff arms,
they know you’re dead.
Someone sues Big Pharma—
too late for you.
At the back of the turquoise bodega
drug deals go down.
Even in jail you found things
to smile about
even if you smiled wistfully,
like someone who remembers red poppies
when they had eyes.
The peacocks of addiction
strut their luminous wares.
Wherever you go
their purple moons tremble with promise.
When you sleep
they catch your dreams in snares.
They peck your bright hopes,
Eighteen Months Recovery
You take your girlfriend to detox
as I once drove you along the potholes of Mass. Ave
to Boston Medical.
I have a video we took that night—
your hands shaking, skin
hanging on depleted bones.
You give your girlfriend a pink rose.
You give her kisses you’ve been saving for years.
I wish I could spare you the urgent truth:
She loves someone more than you.
Someone who stuffs promises in her suitcase,
someone with a voice like liquid caramel,
a nomad who goes by different names:
Juice, Tar, Mud, sometimes just H.
The trustee of hopelessness
holds her hand and whispers, Come,
come into the shadow of no memories,
the fortuity of my embrace.
Lee Varon is a poetry, fiction and non-fiction writer. She won the 19th Annual Briar Cliff Review Fiction contest. Her poetry and short stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and published in various journals including Painted Bride Quarterly and Atlanta Review. In 2017, Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Affairs Run in the Family. In 2018 she won the Sunshot Poetry Prize for her book, Shot in the Head. She is the co-editor of the anthology Spare Change News Poems: An Anthology by Homeless People and those Touched by Homelessness, published by Ibbetson Street Press in 2018.
Forty years ago, with smoke wafting
down our hallway and billowing
under the door and the fire alarm
blaring away, I had to get out fast.
My young wife was at work,
no animals to locate and save,
years away from our child’s birth,
I grabbed what was, at the time,
my most valuable possession—something
I’d held dear since my first year at
the University of Wyoming where I sat
in Richard Howey’s philosophy class,
sharpened my life, progressed it out of
the cave of conformity and complacency.
I grabbed my copy of The Portable Nietzsche
and fled our smoke-choked abode.
Outside, on the sunbleached sidewalk,
while helmeted Denver firemen wrapped
in their heavy rubber coats and boots,
stormed our building, I opened to Zarathustra
and read my favorite aphorism—a beatitude
Freddy wrote to Christians whom, he averred,
always slept well because they got God
to forgive their sins every night before bed:
“Blessed are the sleepy ones,” he wrote,
for they shall soon drop off.”
As it turned out, ours was a silly,
if smokey, dumpster fire, put out easily
by Denver’s best. When my sweet wife
returned from her day’s labor (I was still
struggling to obtain my BA), I told her
of the afternoons’ excitement.
Had I wrapped arms around our wedding album?
she wanted to know. Had I carried it out of
our endangered building that day, rescued
our most cherished memories from the
inchoate flames? Her long dark hair,
moon-cool eyes, and hands whose fingers
moved over me like a Chopin etude,
instantly obliterated twenty years of Catholic
dogma about truth telling as well as my
adherence to Nietzsche’s transvaluation
of all values. Of course, I replied. I ran out
of our endangered home with our memories
held firmly in my hands, kept safe from
flames, hoses, water damage, and enemies:
foreign or domestic.
That night I slept well. Dropped right off.
Charlie Brice is the winner of the 2020 Field Guide Magazine Poetry Contest and is the author of Flashcuts Out of Chaos (2016), Mnemosyne’s Hand (2018), An Accident of Blood (2019), and The Broad Grin of Eternity (forthcoming), all from WordTech Editions. His poetry has been nominated for the Best of Net anthology and twice for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in The Atlanta Review, Chiron Review, Plainsongs, I-70 Review, The Sunlight Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere.
Oakland, September 9, 2020
The dark sky surreal
the color of a child’s crayon
the sun uneasy red
five million acres
and there she was
white tail flagging
ghosted by silence
moisture pulled from plants
as temperatures rise
ready to flame
sometimes in the darkness
you can see more clearly
I’m sorry I whispered
Hunger stones as memorials
hunger stones as warnings
of famine of drought of
emaciated animals, failing crops
of too many bodies to bury
Stones embedded into river banks
in 1417, 1616, 1717, 1842, 1892
carved with words or pictures
to alert people that when the stone is
exposed, the river is perilously low
So many hunger stones now visible
our land parched and burning
revealing the truth buried beneath
A toy gun held by a twelve year old boy
I can’t breathe cried eleven times
a stolen box of cigars, a counterfeit
twenty dollar bill, a man asleep in his car
a man selling loose cigarettes
Hunger stones named Eric Garner,
Michael Brown, Tamir Rice,
Walter Scott, Alton Sterling,
Philando Castile, Stephon Clark
Breonna Taylor, George Floyd
Wenn du mich siehst, dann weine
carved on a hunger stone in the Czech Republic
If you see me, weep
Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.
I went for a walk yesterday when a flock of wild turkeys flew over my head and landed feet first on my path. Then a commotion of wild dogs chasing wild hogs gathered around my legs but moved past, now hogs chasing dogs fleeing one lone wild cat with a tail that spun like a propeller. Now all I could think of were the wild one-eyed Jacks I drew to win a poker pot last Friday night, that and a wild hair up my ass kept me steady on my path that I’d long ago chosen instead of calm, the mere contemplation of calm left me blank in search of breath. What good is breath if you cannot pant? Just then a wild goose flew over and dropped an egg in my cap. I held it up and yelled, thanks. Days later its shell cracked and a good looking little gosling sang in my arms. “Born to be wild” was all I made out. I sang back “wild thing, I think I love you,” knowing the score.
Charles Springer has degrees in anthropology and is an award-winning painter. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, he is published in over eighty journals including The Cincinnati Review, Faultline, Windsor Review, Packingtown Review and Tar River Poetry, among others. His first collection of poems entitled JUICE has been published by Regal House Publishing. Read about him on his website at https://www.charlesspringer.com. He writes from Pennsylvania.
Love Sonnet Written on Learning That the President Has Been Hospitalized
What a fine day for schadenfreude, my dear!
I’ve no intent to offer thoughts or prayers:
for we, the heathens, lovers of Earth, fear
no god—aspire not to sainthood. May
we live long in love, and the nation heal—
and if the wicked suffer, what’s it to me?
Why must we their empty conscience appeal
for kindness, or give an ounce of ours? We
have a future to fight for! They won’t steal
another thought from us. I think of you,
of post-pandemic strolls, how it will feel
to be relieved of this hate. O, we knew
these would be awful years; at least we laugh,
say I love you, watch for flags at half-staff.
Confessions of Private Grief
In the yard of my childhood home
there was a mature Jasmine shrub
beneath my window. On many mornings
I would arise from my private grief
with a deep yawn and breathe in
a sweet gulp of air that would rush
like rum down my throat and into
the center of me. This is love,
atoms discovering atoms.
I recall my first experience of infirmity.
It was like a dream, all vague shapes
and things that make no sense in retrospect.
An old man hobbled toward a casket.
There was silence but for the click of his cane.
He paid his respects, then turned. A solitary diamond
dripped from his eye and shattered in the grass,
so hard and so fragile. This is death,
atoms splitting into atoms.
I have lived as free as a fragrance on the wind,
as shackled to the earth as the vine that produced it.
May I confess in a poem what is forbidden us in prose?
I want the atoms you exhale, the cells of your skin,
the platelets in your blood. To open a door and find you
as alone as we are in dying. To touch my grief to yours.
To be a single gust of sweetness howling in the dark.
Andy Posner grew up in Los Angeles and earned an MA in Environmental Studies at Brown. While there, he founded Capital Good Fund, a nonprofit that provides financial services to low-income families. When not working, he enjoys reading, writing, watching documentaries, and ranting about the state of the world. He has had his poetry published in several journals, including Burningword Literary Journal (which nominated his poem ‘The Machinery of the State’ for the Pushcart Poetry Prize), Noble/Gas Quarterly, and The Esthetic Apostle.