My grandfather dies at CJ’s Motel

Then in the motel room
they rented
by the month—with the kitchenette

& the microwave & the mini-refrigerator
& cable tv

When he sat upright & peered at the ceiling
each lung an ocean

eyes wide & hands tight on the arms
of the recliner

My father swears he saw the host of heaven
call him home

An ocean in my head
I wish
I were certain

*

Then in Texarkana
her heart heavy
as a rented room—with the kitchenette

& the microwave & the mini-refrigerator
& cable tv

When she sat & peered at her laptop screen
solicited prayers from an ocean

My father swears heaven is a host of people
family you want most

The fast-rising tide
I wish
for less blood in the water

*

My sister sits in the lecture hall
daydreams of
the trailer she bought—& end of the day

& her boyfriend & the kitchenette
& cable tv

Scrolls through the newsfeed
a rising tide

An ocean asks her to pray
for her dead

An ocean fills her head
she wishes
it had not soaked through

*

Then in the motel room
I have built
in my head—with the kitchenette

& the microwave & the mini-refrigerator
& cable tv

The channel is tuned to static & the volume
turned up

The bathtub is filling & the sinks
have overflown

My father swears that heaven is an ocean
& grandfather has a boat

Water surges into the room
I wish
I could swim

Tyler Atwood HeadshotTyler Atwood was marooned on this planet as an infant, and has been searching for home ever since. His first collection of poetry, an electric sheep jumps to greener pasture, is forthcoming from University of Hell Press, and his work has appeared in Perpetually Twelve, Danse Macabre, Housefire, and elsewhere. He lives and works in Denver, CO.

White-Washed

My mother fashioned my hair
+++++iinto rows of wheat.
++++++++++++++++iI am in a plaid button down
++++++++++++++++++++++iand cow girl boots–
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++this is the year
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++iiI will declare
my All-American heritage:
+++++ino more cornrow pleats
++++++++++++++++ior Southern meals.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Today I am not my accent
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++iior choice of meal.
I am a black stain
+++++ion a white handkerchief:
++++++++++++++++iAmerica stitched across
++++++++++++++++++++++ithe borders,
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++colors confined,
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++iibetween the right lines.

HeadshotDalia Ahmed is a junior at Miami Arts Charter School attending the Creative Writing Program. She has won keys and medals in Scholastic’s Alliance for Young Artists and Writers and was chosen as a semifinalist for the National Student Poets Program as well as a Foyle Young Poets commendee. Her most recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Dog Eat Crow, Postscript Literary Journal, the Best Young Writers 2013 publication, the Of Love and Dedication anthology, and elsewhere. Dalia also received first place in poetry in the Sierra Nevada College High School Writing Contest. Dalia lives in Miami, FL with a large Afro-Arab family, collections of colorful headscarves, and many bowls of hummus and pita bread.

Helen of Troy in Hiroshima

Yesterday, a man walking his monkey on a leash kissed my cheek
offered sweet potato ice cream. A flavor I’ve never tried. This note—
Please burn your bread at the right toaster.

Temple sign teaches what to say before I cross the bridge:
careful of the footing
because the responsibility cannot be assumed
about the accident in case and so on.

I tell you, Menelaus
it’s possible to survive
even if your tongue turns black
your fingers freeze
like tea-brown curled up worms
your blood, still red, turns poison.

It’s dust and ashes, falling hair and ashes,
flower petals, cherry blossoms, autumn leaves and ashes,
school children will fold you origami cranes

and still
ashes.

At start of Fujisan trail I read:
During the season this
trail is not safety.
So we are not responsible
for your life and what you
do.

Yesterday,
regret drowns in tsuyu. So easy to see tears under clear plastic umbrella.
I am beautiful in rain.

Today,
one question—

are these two human hands enough
to hold
all the not responsible burns
and burns and burns.

Catherine Keefe HeadshotCatherine Keefe is a California poet, essayist and former journalist. She’s the founding editor of dirtcakes journal, dedicated to themes suggested by the UN Millennium Goals to end extreme poverty. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have recently appeared in Superstition Review, ArtPrize Anthology, and Minerva Rising. She teaches writing at Chapman University.

 

 

On Seeing Swans at the Embassy Suites, & When You Ask About Karen

On Seeing Swans at the Embassy Suites

I wasn’t expecting swans.

You were partial to dark corners
oaken Algonquin lounges smoky
with cigarettes and specters, stories
we spilled across the bar,
but that night you offered swans
their pearled splendor indelible,
dappled promise of what our lives
together could have been
long necked beauties swimming
through a basin of years,

years that carried the cost
of captivity, clipped wings
left to glide though water
pumped fresh with oxygen
and chlorine that stained
what was once pristine
until only the remembrance of flight
Propelled us forward.

We never did go back to see them
and the property has since changed hands,
but I’d like to think memory is enough,
that we lost them
not because we proved unworthy
but because beauty moves on.

 

 *  *  *

When You Ask About Karen

It’s easier to diagnose her
as a mere side effect
consequence of post-partum
that tethered me to interiors
for weeks, until her call,
thoughts of her enough to heat water
wash away breast milk and spit-up
isolation I wore every day
replaced with the waft of want.

Easier to say we were
nothing more than sheets drenched
with infection we called love,
strain of lust I was ripe for contracting,
than admit I signed up
for her auburn-tressed trial,
refused inoculation,
ignored the warnings,
because I thought I knew the risks.

Easier to say she did not matter,
deny that there were some mornings
when only her coffee-laced
phone call coaxed me out bed
rather than tell you I believed in us
with the innocence of a girl
I never was.

Easier to say I never think of her
that no splinter remains, no
tiny cross-stitched space
within the expanse of heart
that now carries your name.

Caridad Moro HeadshotCaridad Moro’s poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including The Comstock Review, The Crab Orchard Review, MiPoesias, The Seattle Review, SlipstreamSpillway, CALYX, The Pedestal, Fifth Wednesday Review, The Lavender Review, As/Us: Women of the World Journal, This Assignment Is So Gay: LGBTIQ Poets on the Art of Teaching, and others. She is the recipient of a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in poetry and has been nominated twice for a Pushcart prize. Her award winning chapbook Visionware is available from Finishing Line Press (www.finishinglinepress.com). She resides in Miami, FL with her partner and their eleven-year-old son.

Our Lady of the Highways

Find, if you can, the brightest stars
her right shoulder, the toe of her sandaled left foot,
one on each of her hips.
Her halo has gone out. Stars flicker on and off
from her lifted wrist, her right hand raised,

index finger linking with thumb,
blessing the shining northbound lane.
How exhausting to be collimated.
She does not disperse,
intended for eternity.

I wish on slow nights,
she could extend her arm,
hitch a ride north
to the Waffle House, where the syrup flows
for twenty-four hours without stopping.

Give her a smaller miracle, lacking
loaves and fishes. Lacking a wedding without wine.
Let her heal the pothole just before the bridge.
She’s stranded in a field on a hill,
waiting for the moon to make

the cars into parallel arcs, star paths,
riding a silver-scratched record.
A turntable made out of the earth,
and she’s in the center,
unturning, unwavering.

Sarah Ann Winn HeadshotSarah Ann Winn lives in Fairfax, Virginia. “Our Lady of the Highways” is part of an ongoing set of poems about travel she has written. Another poem in that set, “My 95,” will appear in the upcoming issue 6 of Apeiron Review. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Nassau Review, Portland Review, San Pedro River Review, and Two Thirds North among others. Visit her at http://bluebirdwords.com or follow her @blueaisling on Twitter.

Cyclopsed

In trying to reach the other side
of whatever separates us—blue expanse
or two fingertips inches from bridging
I have become as much an anchorless boat
rowed too near the horizon
as some great vessel moored a lifetime in the shallows.

If I could speak what is missing by silence alone
I would have already uncorrupted the distance.
I would have curved a trajectory
steady as the moon’s
and moved through eternity
certain as sunken stone.

But there is only one lighthouse
for these thousand inconstant shores
and to be nearing the light’s eye—
even if it harbors you—
only means I’ve travelled farther
from discovering myself.

John Sibley Williams HeadshotJohn Sibley Williams is the author of eight collections, most recently Controlled Hallucinations (FutureCycle Press, 2013). He is the winner of the HEART Poetry Award, and finalist for the Pushcart, Rumi, and The Pinch Poetry Prizes. John serves as editor of The Inflectionist Review, co-director of the Walt Whitman 150 project, and Board Member of the Friends of William Stafford. A few previous publishing credits include: Third Coast, Nimrod International Journal, Inkwell, Cider Press Review, Bryant Literary Review, Cream City Review, RHINO, and various anthologies. He lives in Portland, Oregon.

Self-Portrait as a Chicken Dinner

                               Half-dark, extra mild.

I pass these words to the cashier
standing behind the bulletproof glass.

She returns those words to me with
a tone change, eyeing my buttoned shirt
ironed as crisply as my speech free of twang.

Shot through the microphone it feels
forceful, like an indictment saying,

                               my brother, you are what you eat.

What a peculiar feeling to be looked at
suspiciously and not be considered a threat.

I have frequented these joints for years,
peppered around the South and West Sides
like soup kitchens meant to feed
the poor: Harold’s Chicken Shacks.

Pieces of my parents that never
left the hood, so they handed it to me.
A tradition. A taste of the city
cooked in the grease of its politics.

++++++++++++++++iA side coleslaw paired with two
++++++++++++++++ilegs, two thighs, two slices of
++++++++++++++++iwhite bread and french fries, coated
++++++++++++++++iby mild sauce with sweet accent.

Needless for that cashier to say,
I was a mild-mannered kid. Soft-spoken.
No knuckle on either hand. Most of my
friends, girls, according to recipe,
enjoying them for what they would become.

I was sensitive. Fragile. My classmate’s
thesaurus. A transplant, a heart
in a home it was not born to.

Suburban in South Chicago, in
Hyde Park, in the Hundreds, humming,
praying, paying no tax on the tithe.

Blackness surrounding me in a small
circle, and not the square of a block.
The brightest shade of black:
the ink used to endorse a check.

And after service, we would
go pick up chicken for dinner.
Humble our egos back in time to
the cotton fibers of our clothes.

I ate dark meat because I needed
to feel the way I looked.

I quoted Malcolm X whenever possible.
Hip-hop became gospel music. My body,
skinny for the threads I wore.

If a person can love and hate themselves
simultaneously, then surely I could
be two definitions of the same word.

But my tongue was never quite
comfortable in a sling. Never had
a fight I couldn’t walk away from.
Didn’t learn all my colors. Friend’s
funerals few in the story behind me.

Behind me, fires of my own design,
choices of bridges to take and make ash,
like a choice between locations of the
franchise, since my chicken came burnt.

My parents taught me not to take
wheels for granted, but I mistook skin
for verb, the reverb of punched bone.
Became who we all love to diss.

Cortney Charleston HeadshotCortney Lamar Charleston is a young poet residing in Jersey City, NJ. An alumnus of the University of Pennsylvania and its Excelano Project performance poetry collective, his verse explores the hallways in his mind walked least often and, occasionally, his sexy. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Bird’s Thumb, Kinfolks Quarterly, and Specter Magazine.

Alarums and Excursions

Here is the street where we shop for ammonium
and cabbies deliberate over paper cups. They work
the hours of risk from gunshots to breakfast.

When a motorcycle manipulates space to crash spectacularly,
a woman beyond the circumference of wreckage
turns to her man: Why won’t you detonate with me?

We are restless, we travel. We have come to excite
ourselves in a city of alarums and excursions
and experience the voltage of a transportation hub.

Clearly, the insolent equestrian was sculpted
to be defaced as it stands in opposition
to the smoky arrival of interstate buses.

When we leave the terminal, we will leave
something ominous for the bomb squad
since they value only what may ignite.

Alan Elyshevitz HeadshotAlan Elyshevitz is a poet and short story writer from East Norriton, PA. His collection of stories, The Widows and Orphans Fund, was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press. In addition, he has published three poetry chapbooks: Imaginary Planet (Cervena Barva), Theory of Everything (Pudding House), and The Splinter in Passion’s Paw (New Spirit). He is a two-time recipient of a fellowship in fiction writing from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Currently
he teaches writing at the Community College of Philadelphia.

cheviot hills

chlorine is one of those smells
that reminds me of home
and the first time i tried to kill myself
how if you were one of those kids
and i was
whose parents dropped you off at the pool
because it was cheaper than summer camp
you know an indoor pool is one of those few comforts
that is the same in any country
those summers i hated the backstroke
because of the flip
turns and how water always ended
up my nose
but i was good at it
which is to say i was faster
than the other kids
so the coach made me swim it
i consistently won silver medals
i could never see past the mesh
lining of the red trunks
of john or rico the lifeguards
as they sat sometimes watching
from their tower
bussed in inner-city kids
who could not swim well
but dared each other to sneak into the deep
end without taking the swim test
or sometimes napping with
sunglasses on
i passed the swim test on my
first try
and i would tread the deep water
or cling to the cement ridge
as i looked up at the birds
in a red sky that i wanted so badly
to reveal themselves to me
one time a kid crapped
in the pool and it closed early
so i waited under a tree eating hotdogs
until someone picked me up
many hours later
the odd thing about the backstroke
is that you can partially hear the
noise from the surface
as you bob through the rhythm
in that way you knew someone
was always cheering
and because you could
not make out any voice well enough
you knew if you did not
look over to the other lanes
for that moment you were winning

Robby NadlerRobby Nadler is a baker for Independent Baking Co. in Athens, GA.

You Left,

and I ate all the sweet potatoes.
I’m sorry. The raspberries,
the honey, that locket

you gave me. They’re gone.
I was so hungry. I ate
the metronome and the black

bear skull we keep on the bookshelf.
I ate the books. I ate the empty
frame on the wall. And our bed—

the mattress that was soaked
in rain when my roof leaked
in Pennsylvania, the throw pillows,

the feathery down—I ate
it all. I was ravenous. I went outside.
Forgive me, but I ate

our lawn furniture. Even
the porch railings, covered in snow
and ice. I ate them whole.

I ate the neighbor’s wind chimes.
I ate her welcome mat. Her dead
cactus. I went inside and watched

the sun filter into the living room
and light our couch up like an altar.
Then I ate it. The sunlight

and the couch. I was so hungry.
I left. I walked into town. I bought
a chicken from the market.

I brought it home and covered
it in butter. I roasted it.
I fried its kidneys in oil

and rosemary. I sautéed
its liver with shallots. I ate
its body slowly. I didn’t

know what to do
with its heart. I sliced it into pieces.
I held them in my hands,

and they were red
against my skin. I baked
them into a pie.

It was a lovely thing. Golden
brown and bulging
at its seams. I didn’t want

to eat it. It was beautiful,
but it tasted too much
like a chicken’s heart. It tasted

like another body inside
my body. It tasted too much
like I had held it in my hands.

Michelle Reed HeadshotMichelle S. Reed is a Michigan native working as a freelance writer and editor in Chicago. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Split Lip Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, The Smoking Poet, and Watershed Review, among others. She completed her MA in English at Bucknell University last spring. She is the founder and editor of Pink Slayer (www.pinkslayer.com), an online feminist magazine. She is usually hungry.

 

Somewhere in Afghanistan

a child unearths a charm
I gave to you. Sand weathered
the face of St. Michael into a tarnished
silhouette, the vow cut
into the silver on the back no longer
reads “more than my own life.”
A whisper of distorted letters remain
as estranged to this child as we are now
to each other. When I gave you this charm
I said “he is the patron saint of war.”
as if he could protect you, as if death
was the only way you could die. I envisioned
getting it back, given to me while the flag
was presented to your mother, but you ensured
I’d never see it again.
As this child watches light foxtrot
across his trinket, he believes
he’s found something of value, as I did.
not knowing he is a mirage, a kindness I’ve created
because I know it came back home
with you                         and is buried
++++++++iin a land fill
with the rest of America’s unwanted things.

Jordan Skeen HeadshotJordan (Jody) Skeen was raised along the Ohio River and moved south to receive her bachelor’s in Creative Writing from Eastern Kentucky University. She began strictly writing short stories and neglecting all things poetic until one of her professors read “A song on the end of the world” by Czeslaw Milosz. It was in that moment that poetry captured her and although she acknowledges that she may never write anything on the same level as that poem, she’s committed to keep writing until she gets close. You can contact Jordan at

 

CHRONOSCOPE 40: Night Walking

in this whiskey bottle sky night
the sidewalks purple greased
with moon flooded poplar shadows:

I walk toward hummingbirds’ wings,
the morning green: snapdragons,
daffodils trained to bow by an earlier rain:

toward the kimono flutters of a water’s edge.

John Walser HeadshotJohn Walser, an associate professor at Marian University in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, holds a doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In 2004, he co-founded the Foot of the Lake Poetry Collective, an organization that sponsors monthly poetry readings, conducts workshops, and provides other opportunities to share poetry within his community. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including Barrow Street, Nimrod, the Evansville Review, The Baltimore Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Naugatuck River Review, Fourth River, and The Hiram Poetry Review. A semi-finalist for the 2013 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, he is currently working on three manuscripts of poems.

Noir, or Imitating Tom Waits

Women draped over pianos
like spilled drinks,
wearing push-up bras and corsets,
trying to become long-stemmed
wine glasses.

A midget in a black suit
paints shadows on the floor;
he has Peter Lorre’s eyes.

Breath smells like cheap scotch,
men with broad shoulders
and smoke for bones
sit at the bar and peel their squints
toward the door,
while cancer leaks from their pores—
a fog gathering
beneath fedora brims.

You could find love here
like a tire iron to the shin,
ivory keys tinkling minor chords
in sync with rain against the windows,
glasses sweating rings
onto table tops, translucent scars.
Everyone pretending to be
someone else—
so many lost souls
drawing maps on bar napkins
to themselves, through themselves.

Jay Sizemore HeadshotJay Sizemore writes things down that come to him in the shower. Occasionally he sings these things. He’s been lucky to have his work appear in places like Prick of the Spindle, Red River Review, Negative Suck, and Black Heart Magazine. The last book of poetry Jay read was Blood Music by Frank Reardon. Currently, he lives in Nashville, TN, and reads submissions for Mojave River Review.

To My Husband As Velveteen Rabbit

And you cause all the horses in me
to hurtle their shoulders against stable walls
purpling hay with their thick dripping hunger
bruising black boards with their crescent moon hooves

And you cause all the kites in me
to sing as they singe in the bright teeth of lightning
fluttering paper dissolving to ashes
twisting and shaping the sky they unfold

The drum in your throat is a dragon beneath
a membrane of cotton, surging for air

The scent of burnt driftwood that clings to your temples
transforms worn velvet and stuffing to bone

making, unmaking, remaking

Catherine Kyle HeadshotCatherine Kyle is a Ph.D. student in English at Western Michigan University. Her poetry, fiction, artwork, and graphic narratives have appeared or are forthcoming in The Rumpus, WomenArts Quarterly, Superstition Review, and elsewhere. Her hybrid-genre chapbook, Feral Domesticity, is forthcoming from Robocup Press this summer. You can learn more about her at www.catherinebaileykyle.com.

Afterlife

After he was gone,
she looked for him to return,
perhaps as a bulldog,
a stag or tusked-boar.
She did not expect this parrot,
perched on her sill, preening
and carrying on conversation.
Flying, it seems, exhilarates him,
and he enjoys the perspective
on earthbound life. Treetops
and leaves create a kind of jazz
with riffs and bridges all their own.
He doesn’t, however,
care for mites among his feathers,
they itch. And the neighbor’s cat
has stalked him for three days now.

He perches on her shoulder
as she reads, on her chair
as she writes, and they settle
into a kind of routine.
He still drenches the bathroom
when he showers, snacks in bed,
scatters seed husks among the sheets.

Ann Howells HeadshotAnn Howells’s poetry has appeared in Calyx, Crannog (Ire), Little Patuxent Review, Magma (UK), Sentence, and Spillway, as well as other small press and university journals. She serves on the board of Dallas Poets Community and has edited Illya’s Honey since 1999recently taking it from print to digital (www.IllyasHoney.com). Her chapbook, Black Crow in Flight, was published by Main Street Rag Publishing (2007). Another chapbook, The Rosebud Diaries, was published by Willet Press (2012). Her work has been read on NPR, she has been interviewed on the Writers Around Annapolis television show, and has twice been nominated for both a Pushcart and a Best of the Net.

The Grammar of Parenting

for Will & Howard

 *     *     *

Walking Lower Wacker in Chicago,
we debate how strictly vegan you’ll raise your son
as snow melts and fills the shoes

we all, January ill-equipped, have worn
here. Will’s yellow sneakers, Howard’s loafers,
my bright green Adidas. You will raise,

your son, the one in future perfect
on this cold, but too-sunny Thursday before
the adoption agency has matched

you with the boy from the Rust Belt.
The one you’ll take far, to South Carolina,
to birthday parties at Pizza Hut

where, He won’t eat cheese pizza,
Will says. Howard retorts, I’m not sure I agree
with you there
, and straightaway, I regret

bringing up this topic, a hypothetical
question the social worker might ask two men
who eat not meat nor milk nor eggs

but kale cooked down with garlic
and cut onion, the unleavened biscuits
Will mixes at the counter in a steel bowl

as Eminem beats out from the stereo.
As Howard feeds the three, rescued dogs
and I pluck vaguely Oriental plates

from the cabinet. In the end, you decide
to give this future son the information
on factory farming and animal slaughter

as we laugh over twelve dollar tofu scrambles.
Will says, I mean, we’re not going to stop
loving him if he eats a Chicken McNugget
.

Like when, in the half darkness of a parking lot
after his baseball game freshman year,
you’ll embarrass him, and he’ll say

through clenched teeth—I hate you, Dad
but keep on loving you in the present tense,
all these words both useless and full.

D. Gilson HeadshotD. Gilson is the author of Crush (Punctum Books, 2014), with Will Stockton; Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry, 2013); and Catch & Release (2012), winner of the Robin Becker Prize from Seven Kitchens Press. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry, The Indiana Review, and The Rumpus. Find D. at dgilson.com.

Birthday Song with Piano

Forget this aging maw
of yellowed keys,
more flat than sharp,
beating wrong notes
on twisted strings.

Ignore the film of dust
on the wobbly bench
overstuffed with music
no one plays or even
cares to hum.

Avoid the bad keys,
the ones that stick
and stutter, the ones
that are ashamed of
being silent too long.

Play bold arpeggios
until this weathered body
fills its cracks and fissures,
remembers (slowly)
how to breathe and sing.

Donna Vorreyer HeadshotDonna Vorreyer’s first full-length poetry collection, A House of Many Windows, is now available from Sundress Publications. Her work has appeared in many journals, including RhinoLinebreak, Cider Press Review, Stirring, Sweet, wicked alice, and Weave. Her fifth chapbook, We Build Houses of Our Bodies, was just released from Dancing Girl Press, and she also serves as a poetry editor for Mixed Fruit magazine. Visit her online at www.donnavorreyer.com.