Two Poems by Ellen Roberts Young

What We Have Left Undone

Unable to sell his fiction, my father
turned his art to text books,
seeding grammar exercises
with humor to waken students,
amuse himself.

For my first story (I was six, it was
four lines long) he typed up two
copies with carbons, pleased
his daughter shared his joy
in crafting with words.

He who would never have accepted
an incomplete on my report card,
went suddenly, left books unwritten,
deadlines missed, his life
a work unfinished.

*

A Marriage

My mother was country, my father,
city. Never mind that his city was
a small town on the coast, her country
an easy drive from San Francisco.

She brought him music, savored his talk.
He spoke not of his mother’s dying
before he was twelve, but of how,
delivering papers and picking berries

for jam, he supported his aunt
during the Depression. In war time
he sent home his poker winnings.
They built a house on her family’s land.

His fire needed her earth—
he ended up scorching it. Ground
recovers, fire burns itself out:
their only water was language.

*

Ellen Roberts Young has two full-length collections, Made and Remade (2014) and Lost in the Greenwood (2020) as well as poems in numerous print and online journals. Her third chapbook with Finishing Line Press, Transported, came out in early 2021. She is an editor of Sin Fronteras/Writers Without Borders Journal, and blogs at http://www.freethoughtandmetaphor.com

February, 2021 — by Donna Hilbert

February, 2021

In a fit of hope, I wash and press white shirts
hidden in the hamper since last March.
I order lipstick, and a see-through make-up bag
with hooks to hang on any random perch.

*

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems, Tebot Bach, 2018. She is a monthly contributing writer to the on-line journal, Verse-Virtual. She is eager to resume leading in-person workshops and hugging her friends. Learn more at http://www.donnahilbert.com

Two Poems by Kara Knickerbocker

Grief Animal

Some days it is a pair of pearl earrings
I pick from my jewelry box
and put on like I’ve been taught.

But most days,
like today,
my grief breathes on its own,

chews through its leash—

carries me in its large mouth into
yet another ruthless month.

*

Hues of Havana
Cuba, August 2018

I can tell you how the golden hour is different here—
burnt heat cakes sidewalk streets,
swirled grit of city minutes
rush by in a cherry Chevy convertible.

In pastel facades, where laundry lines connect worn fabrics to faces
Havana beats blues back in time,
history written slow into this Saturday morning;
she beats on, ribcaged between all of us.

*

Kara Knickerbocker is the author of the chapbooks The Shedding Before the Swell (dancing girl press, 2018) and Next to Everything that is Breakable (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poetry and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from: Poet Lore, Hobart, Levee Magazine, and more. She currently lives in Pennsylvania and writes with the Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University. Find her online: http://www.karaknickerbocker.com.

Winter’s Toll by Melanie Figg

Winter’s Toll

The deer are starving.
Summer was too dry and snow came too soon
and too thick. They usually don’t come out
of the woods until February. It’s almost Christmas
and they’re in the trailer park by ten.

My mother died a week ago.
We cleaned out her refrigerator,
found two bins of apples
she had no energy to can
and left them for the deer.

After bar close I drive in slow: two doe and a fawn.
For a minute I feel lucky—to see animals so hungry
they’re at front doors eating
Christmas wreaths. One doe swings her head,
watches me park and go inside
my mother’s house. They keep walking,
looking for apples on the snow-covered lawns.

*

Melanie Figg’s debut poetry collection, Trace (New Rivers Press) was named one of the 100 Best Indie Books of 2020 by Kirkus Reviews. Melanie has won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, The McKnight and Jerome Foundations, the Maryland State Arts Council, and others. Her poems, personal essays, and book reviews can be found in dozens of literary journals including The Iowa Review, Nimrod, and The Rumpus. As a certified professional coach, Melanie teaches creative writing, offers women’s writing retreats, and works one-on-one with writers and others. http://www.melaniefigg.net

Replacements by Robert Carr

Replacements

I can’t do a dog, so my son’s first pet at my house
is a goldfish he names Zippy. I decorate the glass lung
of our separation. In the kitchen, orange circles –

flamingo pink pea gravel lines the bowl. Fake ferns
and a treasure chest hide a bottom feeder, the dull sucker
keeps it clean. Zippy tends to die on Fridays.

The sucker lives forever, but doesn’t have a name.
Because my son is with me twice a week,
I run out to replace Zippies before his next visit.

Whenever one goes belly up, double fins whitened
at the ends, I do my best to match the latest fish,
pray my boy won’t notice. Before we sit for supper,

Noah always asks to visit his fish friend.
I sit him on the counter, How’s Daddy doing, Zippy?
On Zippy number four, Noah cries out Daddy, look!

Zippy has a black spot on his nose! I gaze through
the far side, over a pink stone carpet. Wow! Some things
can’t be explained, I answer: He must be growing up.

*

Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, published in 2016 by Indolent Books and The Unbuttoned Eye, a full-length 2019 collection from 3: A Taos Press. Among other publications his poetry appears in the American Journal of Poetry, Massachusetts Review, Rattle, Shenandoah and Tar River Poetry. Robert is a poetry editor with Indolent Books and recently retired from a career as Deputy Director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Additional information can be found at robertcarr.org

Tallahassee by Ann E. Michael

Tallahassee

You lived in a cinderblock duplex
like everyone else that part of town
flat roof beneath mossy oak
sidewalks yellow at pollen blow
loose trash along the curbs.
Your brother drove a new model
pickup everyone envied,
kept it real clean, never parked
on your street. He’d say forget
college, get a job, he’d buy you beer
and drop you at your door
the neighbor kids eyeing him like
some kind of celebrity. One time
he backed his truck over a kitten
didn’t hear you yelling stop
till it was too late and the poor thing
lay yowling, paralyzed, those kids
looking on with you still can’t say
what, maybe awe, on their faces.
Their dad jerked his thumb at Rick,
said, Finish it. Rick revved into
reverse, then roared off. You told
them you were sorry. Ain’t nothing
but a cat, said your neighbor,
they’s dozens nobody wants, we
can get another. You stood
on the scabby grass, once again
feeling you could do nothing right.

*
Ann E. Michael lives in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, slightly west of where the Lehigh River meets the Delaware. Her most recent collection of poems is Barefoot Girls. Her next book, The Red Queen Hypothesis, will be published sometime in 2021. More info at http://www.annemichael.wordpress.com

Storytelling by Michael T. Young

Storytelling

A man standing in the middle of 42nd Street said,
“Happiness is a cave with WiFi and my favorite beer.”

I believed him because he was naked
and the police were converging on him.

When he stretched out on the hot asphalt,
a pigeon crossed overhead from marquee to marquee.

That’s how I knew he was telling the story of our age.
Some reporter may write down his proclamations,

distinguish by them the gun from the plough,
and teach how stories caught in empty bottles

howl as long congressional breaths over their rims,
and other stories calcify into shells with seawater

cupped in their nacreous bowls. The differences in them
are that the final scripture etched in their salts

guides us to sip from troughs imparting the wisdom
that a hug is warmer than a smoking gun

and while your story is more interesting: hiking the Himalayas,
sharing shots of slivovitz with painters in Prague,

or your knees giving out at the World Trade Center Site
remembering you survived that day by two or three minutes—

it’s not my story. It would be thievery for me to tell it.
And though I was there that day too, I kept walking,

am walking still, so my story goes untold
because my knees are stronger, because telling a story

means stopping and sitting down, maybe with a beer,
maybe lying down on the hot asphalt until they carry you away.

*

Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. His previous collections are The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, Gargoyle Magazine, One, RATTLE, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.

Two Poems by Matthew J. Andrews

Work Song

City birds seldom call out in song.
They speak in utilitarian chirps,
a squawking vernacular to guide
them on their morning commutes –
wire to branch, branch to dirt,
dirt to highway of cloudy skies –
the way we mumble to each other
about open seats on the bus,
our heads bobbing with the staccato
rhythm of halt and motion, mouths hungry
for crumbs scattered on the street.
Yet even then there are moments,
small moments late in the day
when the drumbeat of sledge
on steel brings to the lips a tune
our mothers used to whistle
in the kitchen as they worked,
their knuckles kneaded and buckled
but their mouths high in the clouds,
soaring on wingspreads of air,
and we softly sing their memories
to the waving branches of the trees
and listen as the birds sing back.

*

My Father and I Make Sausage

Everything must be cold,
he tells me, and it is,
the chill numbing the nerves
on the tips of our fingers.

Cutting the meat away from bone,
his knifework is almost surgical,
his free hand placed carefully
away from the sharper edges.

Out of the grinder, the flesh
is a frayed rope. The machine
whirs like a table saw, singing
the same shrill sounds as silence.

He feeds the casing until we have
links stretched to capacity with fat
and muscle. Don’t prick the skin,
he tells me, or it will all spill out.

*

Matthew J. Andrews is a private investigator and writer who lives in Modesto, California. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Orange Blossom Review, Funicular Magazine, Red Rock Review, Sojourners, Amethyst Review, Kissing Dynamite, and Deep Wild Journal, among others. He can be contacted at matthewjandrews.com.

Two Poems by Mark Saba

Flowers in the Dark

The young man holding flowers
delivered our food in three boxes.
Loose potatoes and apples, lettuce

partially wrapped beside a box of butter,
berries, almonds, and Greek cheese.
He wasn’t sure which flowers we liked

so bought three: one, wrapped tulips
and two alstroemeria. Did we like
the purple or peach? He stood

in his buttoned rust jacket, a shadow
of the boy who graduated with my son
six years ago, now a generation

of wise old youth holding flowers
for their elders. Which one don’t you want
he asked. It will look nice

in my apartment. He stood there
six feet away in the dark
having delivered our groceries

holding a bouquet of flowers
that I’m not sure he really wanted
or knew what to do with

once back to his other world
the one without flowers
or any place to put them.

*

The Broken

My brother, my daughter, my father,
my wife. A cloudy eye, piece of leg
and vanishing arm.

An asymmetry in stride, an upbeat cheek
adjacent to uncertain lips.
The visitors come whole, hoping to embrace

the broken pieces of those they’d once known
but have been disassembled
as they try to reconstruct.

Outside, under searing light,
the rehab grounds remain dressed
in autumn finery: greens and golds

atop fiery trees, a harboring mountain,
glass-walled rooms that look out
and allow a looking in. My son,

my husband, my sister, my dear friend.
We hold the pieces of you
and let the pieces fall.

*

Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). Saba’s work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. His is also a painter, and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

Two Poems by Jack Powers

LOSING THINGS

My wife worried what we’d do when we retired.
So far we’re spending it looking for things:
Keys, coats, glasses. Sometimes they’re on our heads
Or in our hands. Sometimes on an odd shelf.
At first it’s irritating, then a challenge.
I walk the house, looking through my wife’s eyes
from breakfast table to bathroom, in closets, in couches.
Or think like a wallet or a phone. Where would I hide?

As my father’s dementia deepened, he lost his edge,
his quick sarcasm. Or maybe he just forgave us,
released the resentments, forgot the ways we’d let him down
and became, if not a hugger, a ready smiler, a back patter, a fan.

Once I found a birthday card drawn by my son at two. I looked
like a smiling potato. When dementia comes, I hope it’s the forgiving kind.

*

ON THE DRIVE TO UNCLE PETE’S

Beside me in the old V Dub, Granny waited
as if dormant, as if cars had just been invented,
as if practicing her Irish training to be still until the hated
Black and Tans had passed, as if that war had never ended.

At sixteen, her silence mystified me. Her joyless ride
day after day terrified me. To get a rise, I tried
asking if her priest-son Pete had nun honeys on the side.
I said I joined the priesthood, then admitted I had lied.

Except for one Oh Jackie! she waited silent as a stone
like looking out the window at the lawn when we were home,
nodding off to sleep, jolting straight awake, always alone.
For what? I often asked. She kept her thoughts her own.

So I sped up, beeped the horn, wildly gesticulated.
She stared still straight ahead and waited, and waited.

*

Jack Powers is the author of Everybody’s Vaguely Familiar. His poems have appeared in The Southern Review, The Cortland Review and elsewhere. He won the 2015 and 2012 Connecticut River Review Poetry Contests and was a finalist for the 2013 and 2014 Rattle Poetry Prizes. Visit his website: http://www.jackpowers13.com/poetry/.