Driving, Not Speaking

the way doubt
sits in your eyes
like a flat left
front tire
waiting for me
to rummage around
in the trunk
for a spare whisper
of encouragement
a tire iron
of hope

Karen Vande BosscheKaren Vande Bossche is a Bellingham, Washington poet and short story writer who teaches middle school students who ask questions such as “What color is your real hair?” Some of her more recent work can be found in Damfino, Damselfly and Silver Birch Press and is forthcoming in Sediment, Straight Forward Poetry, and Burningwood. Karen was born in the Midwest, raised in Southern California, and is firmly planted now in the Pacific Northwest. She believes that writing is one of the few venues to continued sanity in today’s world and that she has finally (finally) begun her real work.

I’ll Write You Letters

On birch bark,
with chicken bone shards
dipped in a pot of moth wing dust:
an ink only visible near bioluminescent seaweed.
I’ll roll and slip them into glass capsules
and load these onto hummingbirds’ backs.
You’ll know my words have reached you
when the wingbeats fill your ears,
and you’ll learn that love
sounds a lot like a lawnmower.

Duckworth Jonathan Louis Duckworth is an MFA student at Florida International University, where he serves as a reader and copy-editor for the Gulf Stream Magazine. His fiction and poetry appears in or is forthcoming in Literary Orphans, Fourteen Hills, Sliver of Stone, decomP, Cha, The Penny Dreadful, Off the Coast, Gravel, and elsewhere.

Gutter Maps

ocean ellipsis mouth
we catch ourselves
a grumble in the time gap
maw’s energetic swallow
her beast, her quickening

where were all the murderous
bowlegged dangers i avoided
rollerskating down Mermaid Avenue
back when tides washed the back legs of youth’s agency

there in the subatomic catacomb
an organism of prisms
sold in the back junk shops
i washed my poverty in anonymous
erotic paperbacks i washed
my ideas about poverty through
the camera’s ground glass

the smiling was a circle
i swung to – the sun
beat the boardwalk and its
nostalgic catastrophe of magics
a map of gaslight gutter
rainbows i followed to the sea

Melissa Eleftherion Head ShotMelissa Eleftherion grew up in Brooklyn. She is the author of huminsect (dancing girl press, 2013), prism maps (Dusie Kollektiv, 2014), Pigtail Duty (dancing girl press, 2015), and several other chapbooks and fragments. Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in Entropy, Negative Capability, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, So to Speak, ​Tinderbox, ​and Vector Press. Melissa lives and works as a reference librarian in Mendocino County where she manages the Teen Services department. She also maintains the Poetry Center Chapbook Exchange, a community-curated digital chapbook archive she created and developed for the Poetry Center at SF State University.​ You can visit her @apoetlibrarian and www.apoetlibrarian.wordpress.com. ​

Miasma

The words return,
fold over and begin anew,
a shrouded spring
enveloping mockingbirds
in shaded trees
who curse their surroundings
in alternate rounds, as if fighting with the dawn.
Their tune’s timbre
recasts yesterday and all tomorrows
as a graveyard of upended trees.
Soon, all creatures bent on survival
will throb with the song suspended
in the thick of the forest
that dies by the dawn’s first light.

Amy Strauss Friedman Amy Strauss Friedman teaches English at Harper College and earned her MA in Comparative Literature from Northwestern University. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in *82 Review, Rogue Agent, After the Pause, Fractal, Extract(s), Referential Magazine, Crack the Spine, and elsewhere. Amy lives in Chicago, where she is a regular contributor to the newspaper Newcity.

Picking Up Dad from Work

Wagner Castings Co., 1994

It was all golden air and sepia pavement,
gray smoke blooming from industrial stems.

Fly ash flecked parking lot air, drifting black
snow. Smell of melting rubber and brushfires.

I thought the world would always be that way:
low rumbling machinery, conveyer belts spun

thin, cracks spreading like thickening veins,
distant voices spilling from doors opening

and closing like wings, soot stained hands
clapping shoulders covered by gritty cotton.

Chelsey HarrisChelsey Harris is currently in the MFA program at Southern Illinois University and an assistant editor at Crab Orchard Review. Her work has appeared in The Missing Slate, Cooper Street, and Dressing Room Poetry Journal; was shortlisted at Shooter Literary Magazine; and is forthcoming in The Journal and Hope Grows Here: Stories of Resilience from Survivors of Domestic Abuse.

The Caregiver

See this Lithuanian woman. She has been
feeding my father dinners of mashed turkey
and broccoli, potato pancakes, washing his
clothes, bathing him, offering him the choice
between Wolf Blitzer and Vanna White for years.

Observe her hands as they gently push his body
to the side of the hospital bed. They are covered
with latex gloves. Consider the way she has taught
me to tenderly pull up his socks and cover him
with a quilt, put drops in his eyes, rub powder
on a rash, splash his neck with Old Spice, then
bend down to kiss his cheek goodnight.

You must come closer, you must hang up your jacket,
be prepared to spend hours listening to his slurred
speech, help feed him applesauce with vitamins,
raise and lower his bed, monitor his erratic heartbeat.
Remember what he has given up—his Buick LeSabre,
his cane, his walker, then finally his wheelchair, to get
to where he now lives—a bed with guard rails.

Go to the night-stand and offer him a Frango Mint,
put on his favorite Garrison Keillor CD. Listen as he
smiles with his one good eye and whispers something
so faint, you ask him to repeat, “I’m lucky.”
Think about all this while driving the long way home.
You may get angry at the world, like I do, until you
see your husband asleep in the Lazy-Boy, bare
legs dangling. Until you suddenly realize what the caregiver
has taught you as, without a word, you slowly rub lotion
onto your husband’s chapped heels, then cover his ice-cold feet.

Caroline JohnsonCaroline Johnson enjoys watching movies with her father, especially James Bond movies. She has two poetry chapbooks, Where the Street Ends and My Mother’s Artwork. In 2012 she won First Place in the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Poetry Contest, and is a Pushcart Prize nominee. She has published poetry in Encore, Chicago Tribune, Uproot, The Quotable, Rambunctious Review, Blast Furnace, Origins Journal, Naugatuck River Review, and others. She has led workshops for veterans and other poets on such topics as Poetry and Spirituality, Speculative Poetry, and Writing About Chicago, and serves as president of Poets and Patrons of Chicago.

Thrash in Eighths

after Night of the Rats by Mark Andres

[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth][one_sixth]my sleep—[/one_sixth][one_sixth]it makes me[/one_sixth]fall down. 
[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth][one_sixth]my jazz[/one_sixth][one_sixth]how it [/one_sixth]croons & whistles.

[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth][one_sixth]my lover’s [/one_sixth][one_sixth]spirit[/one_sixth]boogie. 
[one_sixth]Sacred[/one_sixth][one_sixth]buildings[/one_sixth][one_sixth]in me[/one_sixth]crumble.

[one_sixth]Sacred[/one_sixth][one_sixth]music stand;[/one_sixth][one_sixth]holy[/one_sixth]talent-hands. 
[one_sixth]Sacred[/one_sixth][one_sixth]marquis,[/one_sixth][one_sixth]scarlet[/one_sixth]velvet.

[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth][one_sixth]humble[/one_sixth][one_sixth]ladder[/one_sixth]chair. 
[one_sixth]Sacred[/one_sixth][one_sixth]moon who’s[/one_sixth][one_sixth]breathing[/one_sixth]fire.

[one_sixth]Sacred[/one_sixth][one_sixth]aspect:[/one_sixth][one_sixth]slow burn[/one_sixth]in glass. 
[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth][one_sixth]you who[/one_sixth][one_sixth]leave me[/one_sixth]undisturbed.

[one_sixth]Sacred[/one_sixth][one_sixth]perturbs me[/one_sixth][one_sixth]with lights[/one_sixth]and brushes. 
[one_sixth]Sacred[/one_sixth][one_sixth]neighbor’s[/one_sixth][one_sixth]voice[/one_sixth]aflame.

[one_sixth]Sacred[/one_sixth][one_sixth]ivy[/one_sixth][one_sixth]razes[/one_sixth]my house. 
[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth][one_sixth]the rivulets;[/one_sixth][one_sixth]sacred[/one_sixth]the leaves.

[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth][one_sixth]portal[/one_sixth][one_sixth]like[/one_sixth]half-lidded eye.

[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth]the dust motes. 
[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth]the grace notes.

[one_sixth]Sacred,[/one_sixth]the blue jay’s dark shoulders+++++in myth.

Jill KhouryJill Khoury is interested in the intersection of poetry, visual art, representations of gender, and disability. She holds an MFA from The Ohio State University. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Arsenic Lobster, Copper Nickel, Inter|rupture, and Portland Review. She edits Rogue Agent, a journal of embodied poetry and art. Her chapbook Borrowed Bodies was released from Pudding House Press in 2009. Her first full-length collection, Suites for the Modern Dancer, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications in 2016.

You can find her at www.jillkhoury.com.

Quantum

1.
You get in the car and I know
you have something to tell me,
not because I see the unspoken
pooling in the curve of your eye,
but because I feel you not speaking.

2.
Afterwards we lie in bed, your head
cradled beneath my clavicle; you say,
What did you just think about?
Why?
The rhythm of your heartbeat changed.
I reach to pull you closer, but closer
no longer translates in our new language.

3.
We both understand
that the blue herons
around my lake and your dock
can hear me thinking.

Two thousand miles between
me and your downward spiral,
weeks before I’ll see you again
when a heron lands
two feet away from you,
spanning the dark distance for us.

4.
In the quantum world,
scientists perform experiments
on the crystalline structure of water:
shouting at one container for a month,
saying thank you, I love you to another,
ignoring the third.
Under the microscope, changed expressions—
exposure to negative thoughts forms
dull, incomplete, asymmetrical patterns;
exposure to loving words creates
brilliant, complex, snowflake patterns.

5.
2014 was the southeast’s second
wettest year since record-keeping began.
In California they continue to have
the worst drought in modern history;
I am saturated; you are flammable.

Michelle Lyle M.S. Lyle hails from NJ and currently writes from Roswell, GA, a revived milltown hugging her beloved Chattahoochee River north of Atlanta. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Lesley University. You can find some of her work at Postcard Poems and Prose, Fried Chicken and Coffee, The Write Room and upcoming in Iron Horse Literary Review. She’s currently furiously editing her first full-length poetry manuscript and working on a collection of travel essays. Oh, and daydreaming. Above all else, daydreaming—a skill she gives high regard to not only as a poet, but as a sentient being in general.

In the Suburbs You Can Have a Perfect Life

The dog sniffs a fire hydrant.
The son shoots baskets until dark.
The grass is sharply edged along the sidewalk.
It takes only a moment for the man
to forget he is father, husband,
for his wife to become stone.
He clenches his fist, brings back his arm,
as though winding up for a pitch.
The driveway is swept clean.
Moths dart around the porch light.
Dirt spills from the planter.
The son runs away.
The sky fractures.
Fruit hangs low on the plum tree.

Susan Bucci Mockler Susan Bucci Mockler has had her poetry published in Poet Lore, The Cortland Review, The Paterson Literary Review, Voices in Italian Americana, and the anthology, My Cruel Invention, among others. Her chapbook, Noisy Souls, was published by Finishing Line Press. She is a poet in the Arlington County school system and teaches writing at a local university. She lives in Arlington, Virginia.

Pathology

With a red pen,
the disease draws
inside my abdomen

a chain of volcanoes
erupting on cue
and rivers of lava
sliding across organs,
then hardening into rock,

traces on my ovaries
silhouettes of faces
that will never be,

scrawls on my uterus
infinity symbols.

The disease takes
years to gestate.

The disease claims
dominion over me,
makes me an accomplice.

Elizabeth Onusko Elizabeth Onusko’s poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Witness, Best New Poets 2015, Slice Magazine, The Journal, Linebreak, Southern Humanities Review, and The Adroit Journal, among others. They have also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and featured on Verse Daily. She is the author of Portrait of the Future with Trapdoor, which won the Bryant-Lisembee Book Prize and will be published by Red Paint Hill in 2016. Visit her at elizabethonusko.com.

Violet Rain

two months at best
the doc said,
and we went home…
—in drowning rain
—in pregnant silence
—in circular, useless thought
* houseplants *
* houseplants *
* houseplants *
(need watering)
and we’re still out of milk…
‘better remember to—
oh!
a new lymphatic system!
you need
a new lymphatic system, too…
‘missing red lights
that beamed like
land bound sentinels
worn-out
windshield wipers
smearing grey horizon
over everything
. choking view .
obscuring doorways
faceting teardrops
blurring petals
of withered African violet
(the one in the foyer)
(the one that’s been there as long as I’ve known you)
(the one that needed watering sooner)
leaves falling
like fuzzy rain…
like two months left
to live
(at best)

Robiscoe Karen Robiscoe’s short stories, essays, and poetry have appeared in the literary journals Spectrum, Postscripts to Darkness, KY Story, Bohemia, Steamticket, Peachfuzz, Dark Light 3, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Main Street Rag, Meat for Tea, Sand Canyon Review, Midnight Circus, Peachfish, Checkmate, Blue Crow, and 300 Days of Sun, and at Handful of Dust, Whistling Fire E-Zine, Art4theHomeless, and on her blog: Charron’s Chatter. Her recipes are regularly featured at Hub Pages, and Fowlpox Press released her brain-bending, idiom-twisting chapbook Word Mosaics in early 2014.

Beyond This Place

The air is thick with ambivalence.
The residue of those both forgotten and pushed away.
A watchtower too certain of its own authority.

The slow grating of a mechanical door granting
one passage in and out of the yard.
The dull gray of clothing rendering life

invisible against a backdrop of concrete walls.
Barbed wire coils itself precariously
around the edges of the prison.

It can be difficult to tell what they are trying
to keep in and what they are trying to keep out.
Chain linked fences standing upright as soldiers do.

Only what they are told,
only what they have convinced themselves
they have been built for.

But is anything built for what it ultimately becomes?
Stripped of any agency it might have had,
when this steel was melded into a false deity,

a pretense of human control,
did it dream of what else it could have been?
The wheels of a child’s first bicycle.

The monkey bars from which they would swing
to and fro.
The car a family drives on cross-country road trip

filled with laughter
and fighting
and spilled ketchup across the floor.

When did it learn it was to become a cage?

But how can a cage become a refuge?
A circle of men swallowed
by the world’s indifference.

Where the totality of their personhood
has been diluted to a single act.
That they have become singularly defined

by the worst thing they’ve ever done.
We don’t remember they are brothers,
husbands, fathers, friends.

We don’t remember that they are people
worth remembering. But their writing is a declaration
of all that makes them whole.

A classroom of men who refuse to forget themselves.
Each word provides the sort of liberation
a parole board can never grant.

So often they write about their family,
their children.
How they want them to remember

their father as the man whose laugh
would turn a room into a festival of rapture.
How he would read them stories before

they fell asleep to a world that didn’t always
make sense, but always made sense
in his arms.

It’s the sort of thing that reminds them
that they once existed beyond this place.
That they still do.

Clint SmithClint Smith is a doctoral candidate at Harvard University and has received fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshop. He is a 2014 National Poetry Slam champion and was a speaker at the 2015 TED Conference. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in the American Literary Review, Harvard Educational Review, Masons Road, Off the Coast and elsewhere. He was born and raised in New Orleans, LA.

in the middling alabama

In the middling Alabama
unpopular girls grow tall
and firm given the cover
of hundred-foot magnolia
tree towers. Given limbs
too thick to rustle, betray,
or give a girl away. Make
it so you can never look
up and say it wasn’t me.

Never say you are not
the girl who wobbled
into magnolia arms
weeping. Tears you
spilled in overturned
leaves. Fallen boats.

Like others, you grew
on iced-tea stories with
sprigs of mint. Slept in
silver moon puddles.
Fear a response to the
brilliant neon bibles
or anything that stood
between a girl and sky
she could see. Stars.

You grew an inch more
per annual ring. You grow
until the room key is a
bulge in pressed khakis.
A trinket for your thoughts.
One look from the eye
of a mounted stag
above the fireplace.

Alina

Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and reared in Alabama. She lives in Tuscaloosa with her partner and three small native species. This poem is drawn from her chapbook, objects in vases, forthcoming from Anchor and Plume in March 2016. She wants you to read it. More online atwww.alinastefanescu.com.

Ruin

If monuments
are all that survive us,

if Palmyra,
dead for centuries,
is all that stands for beauty,

if, blind
to the blackened skies
and the savagery of an unmaking
the eyes of a statue
call to us,

if the Aramaic of ruins
speaks to us
like no mother tongue
nor parched throats
of orphans have,

if a hunger stirs in each of us
for a temple
empty of worship,

if our pulse quickens
for the ghost of Zenobia’s gowns,
her diaphanous gaze,
while the living,
knee-deep into their deaths
in smoldering cities
in boats dissolving in the sea
in swollen bellies of refugee camps,

if all that breaks our hearts is
yesterday,
and the silent colonnade
anticipating
the dynamite,

if all we love
is a lost world

then let the dust
swallow our names

let the maps
beneath our feet
burn.

If all we are is past,
who are these millions
now
gasping for air?

Lena TuffahaLena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet and translator of Palestinian, Syrian, and Jordanian heritage. Her poems have been published in international and American journals including The James Franco Review, The Monarch Review, Borderlands, The Lake for Poetry, Ofi Press Mexico, and Sukoon. Two of her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2014 and 2015). Her first book of poems, Water & Salt, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press in 2017. She lives in Redmond, Washington with her family. You can read more of her work at www.lenakhalaftuffaha.com

What Happened to Nan?

(1)

When sleep comes the cortège stops by cairns,
tugs the silver cord, nearly always with ravens.

Only here, snapped back to white chairs, dew,
do I recover details—umbrella faces,

black suits, cousins, hatchbacks, clunk shut.
A day off school, same uniform, blazer apt.

Puce curtains close. Organ music. Brother’s hand
round my elbow. His only touch, never since.

Curtains shut, hymn books, mahogany pews,
priest’s robe. I knew nothing of the electric trolley,

nothing of the antechamber, ID tag, oven,
adjustment of gas, spray to prevent flashbacks;

nothing of the raking of ash, how it’s
the thigh-bone, the skull, that remain as cakes.

Uncle cowed by the casket, looking once, not long;
there scorched, already, the after-image.

(2)

Waking—on the wall, the hospice, curious
how they got her ring off, who that was, the ring

that dug its way in, what marriage meant. She said
they’d have to amputate, was the only way.

Who kept the book of condolence, sent light
to career through catkins, starring the eiderdown?

Her thoughts mended, there to remember us
by. She must hold this smile, her favourite

of three. Or might she actually forget?
As she went of course through walls, up and out.

I asked such naive questions, and was shown
a red admiral moored on a Volvo. ‘She’s there

returned.’ So soon, I thought. And what of us,
that limitless repertoire of love, was it stored

under antennae?, or was it circling somewhere
close?, or, unsaid till now, lost with her warmth.

Patri WrightPatri Wright was born in Manchester, England in 1979 and completed a PhD in English at the University of Manchester. In 2014, Wright graduated with an MA in poetry from the same university. He has been shortlisted for the 2015 Bridport Prize, and poems from his pamphlet Nullaby have been published in several magazines including Agenda, Allegro, Brittle Star, and London Grip. He is a lecturer at The Open University and teaches Creative Writing.