This Late Thanks by Hayden Saunier

This Late Thanks

Hickory nuts shake down from shagbarks
onto blacktop, their leather cases cracked

at the seams, releasing the dense center
that as a child, I’d try to bust open

for food with a hammer against stone.
It never worked out. My first careful blows

revealed an intricate chambered hardness
that clenched the meat too tightly for my fingers

to pick out so I’d bring the hammer down
hard as Thor, which smashed the halves to mush

shot through with broken shell, impossible
to eat. Sometimes, even a truck can’t bust

a hickory nut’s core. Today, they drop
and settle atop asphalt, or skitter

into ditches to soften and take root,
get storm-washed into creeks to rot, decay,

go round again. For years, I thought that if
I really tried, I could discover where

the sweet spot lives between slow patient time
and swift obliteration— the perfect

angle, words, or pressure point to crack,
precisely to the right degree, the small

hard architectures held so tight inside—
but no such place. Instead, I have this late

and quiet thanks for fate or happenstance
or maybe even grace, that any one of us

has fallen, broken just enough,
onto an earth, or into hands, that give.

*

Hayden Saunier is the author of five books of poetry, including A Cartography of Home, published in 2021. Awards include the Pablo Neruda Prize, Rattle Poetry Prize, Gell Poetry Award, Keystone Prize, and a dozen Pushcart Prize nominations. She directs No River Twice (poetry + improvisation), an interactive, audience-driven poetry reading/performance. More at http://www.haydensaunier.com.

Haiku in the Day Shelter for the Homeless by Bonnie Naradzay

Haiku in the Day Shelter for the Homeless

This morning we read haikus.
Not just Basho, whose name
means “plantain tree,” and Issa,
whose name means “cup of tea,”
but also Richard Wright,
born in Mississippi, who later moved
to France and wrote thousands
of haikus in his final years.
When I said Wright followed
the strict syllable count,
Leon asked, “What are syllables?”
I began to count the sounds
on my fingers: The crow flew so fast/
that he left his lonely caw
Two people liked this one by Issa –
“Once in the box
every one of them is equal –
the chess pieces.”
Eugenia wrote about three women,
regulars here, who died from drugs
in the past few weeks.
“Now in a box,” she wrote,
naming each of them in her poem.
Alessandro, responding to Basho,
wrote about constellations of stars.
And for the first time this year
Robert, tattooed up and down his arms,
was awake and sublimely alert.
He liked Issa’s The distant mountains/
are reflected in the eye/of the dragonfly.
In his eyes I saw myself reflected too,
and over the lonely fields, the crow.

*

Bonnie Naradzay’s poems have appeared in New Letters, AGNI, EPOCH, RHINO, American Journal of Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, Florida Review Online, Tampa Review, Tar River Review, The Guardian, and others. For years, she has led poetry salons at a homeless day shelter and a retirement center in Washington, DC.

Daily Greetings of Love by Martin Willitts Jr.

Daily Greetings of Love

In the tight, compact storage,
there’s room for overflowing love.

Inside love, there’s room for all of us —
pearls of star-jewels, asparagus,

stuff we cannot even imagine,
objects we cannot even name —

firecrackers of love, the illusion of fire
from the arbor lights for returning boats,

stars that witnessed the Cretaceous period,
the whole periodical table of love.

*

Martin Willitts Jr. edits the Comstock Review. His 25 chapbooks include the Turtle Island Quarterly Editor’s Choice Award, “The Wire Fence Holding Back the World” (Flowstone Press, 2017), plus 21 full-length collections includes 2019 Blue Light Award “The Temporary World” and “All Wars Are the Same War” (FutureCycle Press, 2022).

Two Poems by Sandra Kohler

Morning: Still and Moving

The sky’s dun, the roses needing dead-heading
gone dull tan, the morning air thin, reluctant,
a shy child. There are those who hurry, those
who can’t. The woman who tries but is limping,
bent. There is a season dying, a season being born.

When the breeze picks up, it carries fear not hope.
Only the smallest birds fly, a sabbath silence settles
over the grayed street, one butterfly skitters
and darts through still air. It does not come to
the waiting buddleia, the rich purple offerings

a bee cruises. Dim noise of distant traffic comes
to my senses the way a scent of fire does, smoke
scent of fires a continent away. Still hope is always
apprehension’s underside, what we know and
can’t. Sudden grace: a cardinal lands, on the porch

railing first, then hops to the red car roof, perches
for a moment, flies down the driveway, vanishes
from my sight. Like possibility, sign to pursue, like
the flight of the slow gull, the tread of the fat
man with a tiny dog who’s pacing the sidewalk.

The cardinal and the gull, the dog and the bee: as
always, morning offers what I can and cannot see.

*

Duets

Our beloved dead
now come to us
as voices

at daybreak, twilight –
on the cusps of
darkness, light.

We thought we had lost
them, their loved tones
forgotten,

but liminal times –
the hours of
waking, sleep

summon them from depths
into daylight, their
voices still

present, sounding our
identities,
theirs and ours,

so giving us back
others we loved,
and old selves.

*

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast Technology Center in Philadelphia.

Three Poems by Clint Margrave

My Colleague Dies during Covid

The email says that they don’t have
any other contact information for her,
that there won’t be a funeral,
that there’s no address to send flowers.

“I wonder if anyone has a photo to help
us put a face with the name,” somebody
writes in the thread.

But what is a face in an age of masks?
What is a name?

*

A Poem Is a Grave

marked by words.

You have to dig deep
to find its bones.

You have to bury
yourself in it.

*

Destroy Unread

I heard that the famous novelist
wrote this on one of his notebooks
before he died.

I guess it’s only natural
to want to sanction the narrative of your life
after you’ve gone,
especially if you’re a writer.

When my father died,
he left no instructions
for a literary executor,
much less for a grieving son.

*

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 Julia Caroline Knowlton

November Song

Praise gray skies, wet yellow
leaves fall to red edge. I wonder

why dark winter moves voices
to fear every day, every night

of the dead. How hard we try
to cover fear with wrong things—

hot meat gravy, a fat gold watch,
words of wool, light cheer.

November song, empty me out
to cloth without paint, barest

branches, a cup without wine.
Move me to snow on evergreen pine.

*

Meditation in Winter

I draw an angel halo on paper,
believing only in paper

not the gold shape itself.
I light candles with a red-hot match.

I sing a bitter song or sweet,
peel apples into butter and taste the past.

I write faint words, wash a dish.
Enter crying darkness coming at last.

*

Julia Caroline Knowlton is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta and incoming President of the Georgia Poetry Society. She has an MFA in poetry from Antioch University and a PhD in French Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill. The author of four books and an Academy of American Poets prize winner, she was named a Georgia Author of the Year for her 2018 chapbook, The Café of Unintelligible Desire (Alice Greene & Co.). Her second chapbook, Poem at the Edge of the World, will be published by Alice Greene & Co. in 2022. Julia regularly publishes in journals including One Art, Roanoke Review, and Boston Literary Review.

Two Poems by Donna Hilbert

On my Sunday Morning Walk, I Think of Wallace Stevens

Palm tree frond and heron wing are one,
or so it seems to me from where I stand.
Palm tree temple, heron priest,
and I, a congregant, alone.

*

Mallards Fly In

Soon they will nest.
Later, hatchlings will be stranded
trying to cross the street.
Not everything is solved by walking.

*

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

She Named This Drawing for Me by Cathleen Cohen

She Named This Drawing for Me

For Tilda

She drove a block to my backyard, having lost
her zest for weighty easels and oils.
Chemo drained her

so she brought a thin pad and array
of micron pens, said she was reclaiming
her old practice of making artists’ books,

which her daughter glued together
with archival paper. Pale as paper,
she perched on a bench

and mapped the landscape:
overgrown hedge and trellis,
empty of clematis.

Such elegant blue lines.
She wasn’t sure if her strength
would last all afternoon.

I asked how she knew
where to start her compositions.
Plucking green from her bouquet of pens,

she said… one spot
that catches the eye,
that’s pleasing.

This thermos on the picnic table,
this bright woven carry-all
shouting to be orange.

That day, she stayed
only an hour and now
I own this drawing,

filled with grace and elegant lines,
with everything we said
and didn’t say.

*

Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. A painter and teacher, she founded the We the Poets program at ArtWell, an arts education non-profit in Philadelphia (www.theartwell.org). Her poems appear in Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, North of Oxford, Passager, One Art Poetry, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review, Rogue Agent, Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press, 2017) and Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press, 2021).

Obedience School by Kristin Garth

Obedience School

I’m there that day you send the last away
with nipping needle teeth, she may outgrow
one day — the half-hearted sobriquet
uttered as you latch her last leash then go.
She was the favored younger child
who never returned, I know, because she growled
and made you bleed, transmogrified wild
by desperate need. She recedes, uncowed,
from your conditioned world where I live on,
the educated girl determined, even
when disciplined, that my denouement
will find me licking at your feet again
while you ponder whether you have grown cruel.
It is a word unlearned at obedience school.

*

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Rhysling nominated sonneteer and a Best of the Net 2020 finalist. Her sonnets have stalked journals like Glass, Yes, Five:2:One, Luna Luna and more. She is the author of 21 books of poetry including Crow Carriage (Sweet Tooth Story Books) and The Stakes (Really Serious Literature) and the editor of seven anthologies. She is the founder of Pink Plastic House a tiny journal and co-founder of Performance Anxiety, an online poetry reading series. Follow her on Twitter: (@lolaandjolie) and her website kristingarth.com