Two Poems by Joseph Chelius

The Franklin Institute

All the wonders of science and invention
stood before us in the distance: if only
we could decode the pattern of the Parkway lights—
our grandmother in her green coat and hat,
the scent of Jean Nate,
leading the three of us with our blond crew cuts
on the day’s expedition: the trolley ride
into town; soft pretzels from a vendor.
And then, as amused Ben Franklin looked on,
peering through his tiny spectacles,
our stepping into the crosswalk—
the talk so many years later
not of the Planetarium, nor even the Giant Heart,
but our awe of tall buildings, the bewildering
phenomenon of commerce and traffic;
our linking hands as if entering
a panorama—sun glinting off metal and chrome.

*

Stopping Between Errands to Watch Little League Baseball

Forget the hardware store,
the broken clapper
on the running toilet.
And the wilting asparagus,
the half-gallon of mint chocolate
sweating it out
in the sauna of the trunk.
Unlike my fellow spectators in the stands,
I have nothing invested here:
no regard for the score
or, as I’d had years before,
no son to cheer as he stands at bat
or maintains his poise on the pitcher’s mound.
But like some roving ambassador,
a retired neighbor filling his days,
I have taken these moments
to play anonymous fan
for both the reds and the yellows
as they compete on the field.
To feel the sun on my arms,
on the back of my neck,
to be a man interrupted—
kindly, avuncular,
without a list or an agenda,
who if only just briefly
on a Saturday afternoon
can put out of mind
the unpacking of groceries
and querulous fixtures.
Can resist even the call
of the pent-up mower—
shrill and exacting,
that disciplines grass.

*

Joseph Chelius works as a principal editor for a health care communications company. His poetry has appeared in journals and magazines such as Commonweal, Poetry East, Poet Lore, Rattle, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and THINK. He has published two full-length collections with WordTech editions in Cincinnati: The Art of Acquiescence (2014) and Crossing State Lines (2020).

Three Poems by Meg Weston

Arctic Terns

In Iceland this spring, arctic terns circle
overhead all day—a day that lasts and lasts
turning twilight towards midnight
fusing pink in pre-dawn light at three.

Fifty thousand miles from Arctic to Antarctica,
Iceland’s coast to the Weddell Sea and return.
In a lifetime they might have winged
to the moon and back three times.

Aerodynamic wings slice the wind and clouds,
they soar screeching songs higher and higher—
a breeding dance in this land of moss and tundra,
pumice rocks, and windblown shores.

I hear their voices in my mind as I migrate
home to Maine, imagine the globe of their journey,
following across the Atlantic, tracing the coasts
of Africa and South America as if they knew
this route before the continents split.

*

Torch Ginger

My fingers long to touch those desiccated
blooms placed on the crater rim years ago.

The lake was barren then, and parking close,
we walked to the edge to lay our offerings
to Pele. Cliff’s edge strewn with bottles of gin—
her favorite rumor has it—tobacco,
blood-red anthuriums, and torch ginger
for their fiery blossoms on long green stems
rising in gardens to light the sky.

What each supplicant wished for,
I do not know—perhaps a lost love,
or safety from an oncoming storm—
what I wished for—
to know the power of her fires,
to speak the tongues of goddesses
to be the object of desire.

Today the lake is a cauldron
filled with fire that casts
its glow into the night sky
colors the stars as red as torchlight.
But I am far from Pele’s ancient home.

I think of loves both found and lost,
words shouted, whispered, or wasted breaths,
fires that raged, ravaged, and roamed.

*

Damariscotta Salt Marsh

Withered grasses fold towards the earth
bleached of color by winter’s winds. A horseshoe
crab, its burnished copper shell, buttons protrude
along its spine, its spiky tail no threat—
primeval remains of life abandoned.
The turning of the tide
a ticking metronome of time.
Bubbles rise between the floating floes of ice,
life lies below the surface.

I keep returning in winter
to ruminate among the grasses.
Submerged worlds and whispered words
reflect my losses. Winter’s sharp sword edge
of death and grief and loneliness, conceals
the promise that life continues on. Yet color will return
with changing seasons, a flock of wild geese will lead
the incoming tide. I long for spring. It’s there—
beneath the surface, emerging.

*

Alongside a successful career in business and media, Meg Weston has had a lifelong fascination with volcanoes. She’s traveled around the world pursuing her desire to witness the power and beauty of the earth in its raw processes of creation and transformation. Meg writes and photographs to express a connection to the earth that is sensual, emotional, and spiritual. Her images can be seen on her website www.volcanoes.com.

With a passion for the geological processes that shape the earth the stories that shape our lives, Meg expresses herself in poetry, non-fiction, and photography. Meg completed an MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University in 2008, with an interdisciplinary emphasis on creative non-fiction and photography. Over the past ten years she has studied poetry under the guidance of such wonderful teachers as Betsy Scholl, Richard Blanco, Kevin Pilkington, Ellen Bass, Nick Flynn, and Tess Taylor.

In early 2020, Meg retired from her position as president of Maine Media Workshops + College where she established The Writers Harbor program to complement media arts curricula in photography, filmmaking, and book arts. As the co-founder of The Poets Corner www.thepoetscorner.org Meg currently supports poetry readings and a growing community of poets, writers, and others who listen to and love the written and spoken word.

Two Poems by Donna Hilbert

Perspicere

I’ve come to love the power lines
crisscrossing the alley behind my house.

Birds pause here, between their quests
for food and water, to rest

until returning to nest in palm trees
across the alley, down the block,

across the street, and to places
that, no matter how I fix my gaze,

I can’t quite know, I can’t quite find.

*

Dear Laurie,

To identify the bird singing from the powerlines,
I pull Birds of America from its spot atop the bookshelf.
Remember, friend, when you gave this book to me? Before
your move to Texas? Or, was it after the returning
to California? Your grandmother’s book
you said, who also loved to name the birds.

How I grieved when you moved half-way across
the country with your family, for your husband’s
better job. I boarded the plane with the baby,
barely three-months old, while you wrangled
the other children up the ramp.
It was December. Remember how we cried?

The new year began and with it, grief began in earnest.
Jobs soured. Friends divorced. In May, my father died.
When school was out, to staunch my tears,
Larry loaded our boys into the car (which car? I don’t remember)
and we crossed the desert states.
Craters, canyons, caverns, kitsch motels, the kids counting
dead critters on the highway all the way to Texas.

Hellish hot, the Texas summer, but Laurie,
you and I were glad to sit in misery together.
We passed the baby back and forth, refilled our icy drinks.
The children, keeping cool, wielded water guns and hoses.
The husbands talked sports, flipped burgers on the grill. It was June.
Did we celebrate our birthdays, one day apart, together?

I don’t remember the birds in Texas, but mosquitos and chiggers
ruled the grass. Cicadas swarmed the backyard trees,
a visitation we’d not expected with its symphony of sizzle
and buzz as if a world were ending or beginning.
We could not have guessed which guests
would call upon us next. Some callers it’s best not to expect.

*

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems, Tebot Bach, 2018. Her new collection, Threnody, is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press. She is a monthly contributing writer to the on-line journal Verse-Virtual. Work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Braided Way, Chiron Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Rattle, Zocalo Public Square, One Art, and numerous anthologies. She writes and leads private workshops in Southern California, where she makes her home. Learn more at www.donnahilbert.com

One Poem by Judith Harris

My Mother’s Grave

Now, when the cold
rain flows, I worry about it
touching her grave,

how many years it will take
to close up that suture.

My mother’s heart is buried
under sycamore leaves
covering the words
engraved on her plaque.

I can still feel the nails
of the gardener’s rake
scraping the “B”
in Beloved.

*

Judith Harris is the author of The Bad Secret and Atonement (LSU Press) Night Garden (Tiger Bark Press), and Signifying Pain: Constructing and Healing the Self through Writing (SUNY Press). Her poems have been published in The Nation, The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Hudson Review, Southern Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, the syndicated newspaper column, American Life in Poetry, and Poetry Daily and Poem of the Day from The Poetry Foundation and on NPR. She is currently at work on a new book of literary criticism, The Poetry of Loss: Romantic and Contemporary Elegies (Routledge Press) to be published next year.

One Poem by Clint Margrave

Egon Schiele: “A Trieste Fishing Boat” (1907)

There is no one fishing
in Trieste today.

They’ve been ordered to stay home.
The boat abandoned.

The world abandoned too
beyond the painter’s old frame.

The water is a murky pink,
a toxic dump,
reflecting off
a sky full of ash
or dust.

The boat sinks.

The colors leak
black as oil,

down into a
slick shadow,

down
into the dates of
my 2020 wall calendar.

*

Clint Margrave is the author of the novel Lying Bastard (Run Amok Books, 2020), and the poetry collections, Salute the Wreckage, The Early Death of Men, and Visitor (Forthcoming) all from NYQ Books. His work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Rattle, and The Moth, among others.

Two Poems by Eric Nelson

My Brothers

I was walking home from school.
Across the street two older boys—
high-schoolers my sisters knew
and didn’t like—stood slugging it out
on the sidewalk, really going after
each other—torn shirts, blood, headlocks,
kidney punches. I watched, absorbed
and afraid that somehow I’d be pulled
into their whirlwind of flailing and cursing,
their boyness, hard as the brothers I didn’t have.
A car drove past, slowed, kept going.
Another slowed, pulled over. A man
in a tan uniform got out and yelled.
The boys bolted for the hedges.
The man looked at me and asked if I was ok.
I didn’t know what he meant. I nodded.
He got into his car and drove off.
I looked to the empty place where the boys
and car and man had been. It felt like
trying to call back a dream.
And here they came, staggering from the hedge,
laughing. They took their places on the sidewalk.
One of them smeared something near his mouth
as red as the lipstick my sister once spread across
my pursed lips. The other boy shouted
at me, Did it look real? A car was coming.
They grabbed each other and started fighting.
I saw how it was done. The car slowed down.
I was ready, if it stopped, to run.

*

Sheltered in Place

Possum scamper on the front porch.
Two great horned owls nest at the edge
instead of deep within the woods.
A black bear stands looking in the kitchen window
like it’s casing the place for a smash and grab.

They’re checking on us. Wondering, in their way,
why we’ve gone quiet. Why we appear as they do,
cautiously, before light, faces hidden. Hoping,
however they hope, we’ve changed. For their good.

The moon has come closer, too. It’s larger. Brighter.
The man in it gone.

*

Eric Nelson’s poems have appeared in many print and online venues, including The Sun, Poetry, The Oxford American, Poetry Daily, and Verse Daily. The most recent of his six poetry collections, Some Wonder, was published by Gival Press in 2015. His new collection, Horse Not Zebra, which includes “My Brothers” and “Sheltered in Place,” will be published in 2022 by Terrapin Books. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

The Amaryllis by Leslie Schultz

The Amaryllis
       for G. M. B.

One August day, husband, you brought to me fresh
amaryllis, its cut stem sheathed in foil.
I set it on our table, in a cut-glass bowl,
was warmed by the scent of its deep, red flesh.

Past afternoon, the white clouds rolled, then crossed behind
that red trumpet culled from a ruined garden.
It seemed to stun the sunset, sounding a lush amen
for the light and the fading edges of its kind.

At dusk, the meal done, twin candles fought the gloom.
Then, dripping on hands and empty plates
a quiet, bloody weeping quelled the room.

*

Leslie Schultz (Northfield, Minnesota) has three collections of poetry, Still Life with Poppies: Elegies; Cloud Song; and Concertina (Kelsay Books) and two chapbooks, Larks at Sunrise: Light-hearted Poems for Dark Times (Green Gingko Press) and Living Room (Midwestern Writers Publishing House). Her poetry is in many journals, including Able Muse, Blue Unicorn, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Light, MockingHeart Review, Mezzo Cammin, Naugatuck River Review, North Dakota Quarterly, One Art, Poet Lore, Third Wednesday, The Madison Review, The Midwest Quarterly, The Orchards, Tipton Poetry Review, and The Wayfarer; and in the sidewalks of Northfield. Her work was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2017. In 2020 she served as guest associate editor for Third Wednesday’s Winter Issue. In 2021, she will serve as a judge for the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest. Schultz posts poems, photographs, and essays on her website: www.winonamedia.net.

Three Poems by Harrison Bae Wein

My Aunt When She Drank Scotch

Whenever my aunt babysat for us
intending to stay the night
carrying her canvas tote,
wearing white leather tennis shoes,

I would wake to her sobbing
and sneak into the guest room
where she sat on the hideaway bed,
wearing her blue men’s pajamas,

nursing a scotch, both hands
wrapped around the glass.
What was wrong, I didn’t know
until one night she told me

that she once loved someone
who wasn’t a Jew
but my grandmother drove him away,
and after that, she lived like a widow

with no one to talk to over meals,
no one to sleep beside
no one to help her pick out bath towels
or have children with.

I heard the ice tinkle
as she sipped, eyelids shut,
and to this day I’ve found
comfort in scotch,

its caramel scent and honey glow;
I didn’t know then
how it burned your throat,
that it wasn’t like candies and sweets.

*

Memory of My Grandfather

Grandma divided the bed
whenever I slept over
with a wooden board,
saying she didn’t want me
catching his cancer,

but aside from that,
all I can recall
is that small apartment kitchen,

how he shuffled past
the old gas oven
you had to light with a match
in his collared striped pajamas
to sit at the dining table

and drink his
Pepto-Bismol
from a small juice glass
to ease his stomach
after the chemo,
the chalky pink sludge
leaving a foam line
on his lip,

and then how I wailed
when I learned
they’d had his funeral
without telling me—

although to this day
I don’t know
what it was
I thought I’d missed.

*

My Mother Loses Me at the Department Store

I am stranded on an island
of a mannequin stand, sitting and
peering up at the pale plastic skin,
her dress the color of canaries,

a man in an armchair winks
as if we’re in a secret club, but I
focus on the women meandering,
rummaging for bargains,

mother nowhere in sight,
muzac drifting through the air
as cash registers open and close,
sounding like distant thunder.

They disappear behind racks
of packed rayon and wool,
scarves drooping from steel saplings,
hats perched like hawks,

and I wonder what would happen
if they turn off the lights,
and lock all the doors, with me still inside—
who will ever find me

when I spot her emerging
from a dressing room,
smiling and
wearing a new dress,
the tags already removed.

*

Harrison Bae Wein’s fiction and poetry has appeared in several literary journals. His series of laboratory stories, Blinded by Science, was the first fiction published at LabLit.com. He has also been a finalist in the Glimmer Train Family Matters short story contest. Harrison has won several awards as a health and science writer, and his work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and many other outlets. He founded and now edits two health publications at the National Institutes of Health. You can find him online at http://harrisonwein.com.

One Poem by Peggy Heitmann

Self Portrait Considering the Mastectomy

       When you delete a wing or limb from a creatures’ form,
       it will inevitably cry out against this taking.
             ~ Lucie Brock-Broido

Who will listen
to the futile wailing against the sawtooth

of pare and scrape and suture. Who will notice
a once gently curved chest, now smooth as a flatiron?

Who will hear the heavy-breath
of resignation, off-balance slosh

of water flooding over the rough stone path
until all that is left are dry sockets,

until all that was severed scabs & scars over
like moss covering a tree root.

*

Peggy Heitmann has published poems in Bethlehem Writer’s Roundtable, Asheville Poetry Review, and Pembroke Magazine, among others. She considers herself both word & visual artist, and a medium. Peggy lives in Raleigh, NC area with her husband and 2 cats.

The Smell Test by Noah Stetzer

The Smell Test

Ten thousand jasmine flowers and twenty
eight dozen roses are required to make
a single vial of this landmark perfume —
to it they add essence from the tropical
ylang ylang tree along with the michelia
magnolia mixed in with the white
star-shaped petals of the tuberose:
a concoction of not one particular earthly
manifestation, but an achievement
of the platonic ideal of a flower. My room
is full of this unforgettable scent, it masks
the old body stink from weeks in bed
and makes the room feel hot. Do smells
have heat; doesn’t cinnamon and clove
already smell warm: is it fall, is it almost
Christmas; and mint smelling cool: a sparkling
pointed smell of something made better,
something clean. Too many smells in here
make it feel too close, and flowers all up
and down the spectrum. The room is crowded
in floral notes, someone smarter
would probably say. This doctor’s using
very few words, she seems to be saying
the very least amount of words she needs
to when I ask her to explain if I have HIV
or AIDS. And her kind of not-talking talking
is what I imagine parents must use
all the time: no one is to blame, it’s not
your fault, everything will be okay, of course
you’re safe. Wearing this perfume my mother
wore when I was little, this doctor’s saying
that no one uses those kind of words
the way she thinks I know I mean them.
These words that still appear on the forms
the hospital use even though really they’ve fallen
out of practice. It sounds to me like what you say
when it’s supposed to sound like a good
true thing but that it’s not real.
*

Noah Stetzer is the author of Because I Can See Needing a Knife (Red Bird Chapbooks). His poems have appeared in Sixth Finch, The Cortland Review, The Night Heron Barks, and other journals. Noah can be found online at www.noahstetzer.com.