Two Poems by Linda Lerner

About Whales and Breathing

I’m thinking of whales
who sleep using only one side of
their brains, the other half stays awake
to make sure they’re still breathing;
thinking of how it used to be
before breathing had become routine
before it stopped, and someone
nudged me awake, how everything
I’d do, like making coffee in the morning
once was like breathing, I’d feel
every breath, could taste and see it,
I didn’t need someone else
to remind me, when breathing wasn’t
just pushing out one gray day
to let another in; I’m thinking

of people struggling to let out
each breath, tied up to ventilators
for months, not making it, and
thankful to be breathing at all;
I’m thinking of whales this Thanksgiving
how they breathe, and what
it takes to be alive every minute

*

Not Them Again

I wasn’t thinking of Eve
mythed from Adam’s rib when
I broke off the last part of my cat’s name,
Samsara, to create hers, six weeks
after he was gone on his 17th birthday,
a few days before my estranged brother also left…
did it to get Samsara back,
sister to a brother she never met
brings back my own brother
but this poem is not about him

Sara, would have none of it.
No lap sitting cat, would not let me
force her into his image, led only
by her instinctive nature
I watch her breathe new life
into this name, to own it absolutely

and see a long line of women
shadowing her, my own struggle against
a favored male sibling I resented…
that ongoing fight for women
to be who we are, a fight
for not against who we’re not

*

Linda Lerner is the author of 17 collections, including Takes Guts and Years Sometimes & Yes, the Ducks Were Real from NYQ Books (2011 & 2015) and When Death is a Red Balloon, her most recent collection (Lummox Press, 2019) Her poems have appeared in Maintenant, Paterson Literary Review, Gargoyle, Chiron Review, Free State Review, and Rat’s Ass Review among others.

—sanctity by Kristina Moriconi

—sanctity

just last year, the steeple
struck by lightning,

smoke & flames
ascending like angry spirits

now this—the parking lot
overwhelmed,

a wake—a committee
of vultures

first to arrive on the scene,
having descended

in a rush
of rapid wingbeats,

clad in funeral suits,
plumed & pressed—

what to make of this dark

thing, these feathery
turnings

in a time of pandemic,
political unrest,

& a retelling
of the stories of Sylvia Plath—

how the struggle
of others

holds peculiar purpose

in hours of despair—a planet,
its masses,

threatened by signs
of impending doom—

here, it’s been raining for days,
so many hurricanes

they’ve run out of names—

I watch as the congregation,
distanced & masked,

files out of church—a sea
of black umbrellas

& the vultures, having finished
off their work,

systematic & swift,

lift all at once, veer toward
the dying ash

*

Kristina Moriconi is a poet, essayist, and visual artist whose work has appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines including Sonora Review, Brevity, Cobalt Review, Lumina, as well as many others. She is the winner of Terrain.org’s 11th Annual Nonfiction Contest, her winning essay forthcoming in early 2021. Moriconi’s work has been included in the anthology Flash Nonfiction Food, (Woodhall Press 2020) and her lyric narrative In the Cloakroom of Proper Musings was published by Atmosphere Press in August 2020.

Three Poems by Anne Babson

POST-FACTUAL-MODERNISM

So much depends
Upon
A red hat about
America
Stitched in China
For Russia
Beside the white
Chickens

*

MADISON AVENUE HAIKU

The Shinto soundbyte
Smacked between bubblegum lips
Is irreligious.

Five beats, seven beats,
Five beats — and why should we think
This is not an ad?

Japanese culture
Owns the rights to bonsai verse.
Coke is it for us.

*

WHERE LOUIS, LESTAT AND I BAR-CRAWL BOURBON STREET

Whatever words say, bodies govern us,
Trapped by flesh, no matter which pretty speech.
But on Bourbon, bouncers don’t card this
Child corpse. They assume I’m auditioning.
I watch women spin on poles, cellulite
Jiggling while they twerk, fat nipples bouncing.
Louis and Lestat slip into the lounge,
But I am not hungry for the buffet.
I stole a wallet off my midnight snack
On Conti. I slip bills in g-strings, not
To satisfy appetites but to watch
Women’s thighs show me stretch marks and track marks
Through bronze spray tan, tattoos, and glitter sweat.

This book freezes me in glitter amber.
My child vampire body will never grow.
That’s not vampire blood. That’s vampire novel.
I ask Britni, the one I panty-stuffed
With twenty singles, to answer questions.
What’s her favorite book? She doesn’t read.
Not reading books traps, too, I see. Britni
Won’t reach fifti, my night vision tells me.
But what is your favorite book? Yes, you there!
And to what has it taught you to submit?

*

Anne Babson is the author of three full-length collections of poetry — The White Trash Pantheon, Polite Occasions, and Messiah. Her fourth collection, The Bunker Book, will be published in 2021 by Unsolicited Press. Her poems have appeared in literary journals on five continents. She lives and writes in New Orleans.

Two Poems by Lynne Potts

IDEA OF DIGS

I’m a fan of gneiss and schist, both formed under pressure
to make layers, which happens with personalities too
but I prefer schist because you can pry the layers apart
spread them on the picnic table and see them glisten.
In college geology, rocks were my favorite topic
and I liked the idea of digs. Imagine how Herbert Winlock
felt when he dug through that wall in a mountain cave
outside Thebes to find hundreds of tiny clay figures
depicting ancient Egyptians in everyday life:
rigging ships, threshing wheat, feeding cattle,
rolling papyrus into scrolls to be used by bearded scribes.
Part of me wants to do digs in some faraway land
but part of me wants what I’m doing now:
sitting in a backyard lawn chair watching the sun
make shadows of clothespins look like miniature
tree swallows about to make a move, but not quite.

*

SOON THE MOON

Soon the moon will seem strange—
we won’t see it in the same light
which happens frequently to me.
I once thought a clean oven was important
or when Sam didn’t tuck his shirt in
after moving to Brooklyn.
What would Akhenaten think of
a man in a bucket loader floating the alley
three feet above our backyard fence.
Akhenaten was an early monotheist
wanting everyone to believe in the sun.
He saw things in a new light, you might say
as I do this morning hearing how many
people are signing up for moon travel.
The bucket loader has been
rattling the alley for over a week
remodeling houses across from us.
Sam is successful as Brooklynites go
and I have completely forgotten the oven.
I have to say Akhenaten could never
have imagined things people believe in
since he first promoted the sun.

*

Lynne Potts has three published books of poetry: two by National Poetry Review Press and one by Glass Lyre Press. In addition poems has appeared in Paris Review, Nimrod, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Southern Humanities Review, Oxford Magazine, Southern Poetry Review, DrumVoices, New Orleans Review, The Journal, Cincinnati Review, Art Times, 2River, American Letters and Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Broken City, New Millennium Writing, Seneca Review, Karamu, SPEC and many other literary journals – more than two hundred poems in all. She won the Bowery Poetry Club’s H.D. Award in New York and was the winner of the Backwards City Review 2007 Poetry Contest. A poem from Paris Review was selected for Poetry Daily. Virginia Colony for the Creative Arts, Moulin a Nef (Fr.) and Ragdale have awarded her fellowships to their colonies. She lives in Boston and New York.

At The Nursing Home by Gary Metras

At The Nursing Home

She visits you every day,
says she is your daughter.
You nod, politely,

wishing she’d leave
before she tells more stories
of people you don’t know.

Your memories are
tissues crumpled
in a wastebasket.

The bird at the window
is your youngest
born in a snowstorm.

Photos on the mantel
around you close like doors
that never open again.

*

Gary Metras’s new book of poetry is River Voice II (Adastra Press, 2020). Other recent books are Captive in the Here (Cervena Barva Press, Dec. 2018) and White Storm (Presa Press, Feb. 2018). His poems have been in recent issues of Poetry East, Ibbetson Street, and Main Street Rag. He is the inaugural poet laureate of the City of Easthampton, Massachusetts as of April 2018. Besides poetry, fly-fishing and tying flies are his passion.

Two Poems by J.C. Todd

Planting Season

Spring, 2019

All day the fuchsia, the marigolds,
Snow White impatiens, coleus,
a couple of showy Rex begonias,
not natives but good nursery stock,
lifted from the plastic sockets
of 6-packs and 12-packs,
their roots teased from clumps,
spread in soil from last year’s pots,
probably enough nutrients
to feed them up to frost.
I’m humming to them,
tucking them into planters
with lullabies that promise
frequent water, daily care,
the tunes falling into minors
of lament, breaking off
as the morning news rises.
In my native land, on the soil
where I’m rooted, children
crossing north to colder growing zones
are warehoused, caged. No soap.
No beds. No sleep. 6 dead.

*

Master Plan for Pruitt Igoe

seeing as what
masters had unseen
for so long that
no one was there

the urban plan
had no where
for no ones to be
so what got built

was a nowhere
to put them in
so they would
disappear

*

J. C. Todd is author of five books of poetry, including Beyond Repair, runner-up in the Able Muse Press contest, forthcoming in 2021, and The Damages of Morning, a 2019 Eric Hoffer Award finalist. Winner of the Rita Dove Prize in Poetry and twice a finalist for Poetry Society of America awards, her fellowships include those from the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. Her work has been published in the American Poetry Review, Baltimore Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Paris Review and elsewhere. Formerly on the faculty of the Creative Writing Program at Bryn Mawr College and the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Rosemont College, she lives in Philadelphia.

Naviphobia by Sean Lynch

Naviphobia

My mother was once
a teenage girl trapped

on a boat in the middle
of the bay with a boy

her father called Jesus
because he was a dirty hippy.

No oars and no motor
just time and the sun.

I don’t know how she reached land
but when she did, she decided to stay forever.

Not long after, Jesus got shot in the leg
while breaking into a junkyard

so she left him and met my father.
My mother was a perfect swimmer

but she never set foot
on water again.

*

Sean Lynch is a poet and editor who lives in South Philadelphia. Recent poems appear in Hobart, Meow Meow Pow Pow, and SurVision Magazine. He’s the founding editor of Serotonin and the Program Director of the Nick Virgilio Haiku Association, in Camden, NJ.

Two Poems by Jacqueline Jules

Radioactivity

When I think of Marie Curie carrying
radioactive tubes in the cotton pockets
of her lab coat, admiring blue-green light
emanating from her desk drawer;
how all her research, even her cookbook,
must now be stored in a lead-lined box,
I am reminded that no one,
not even the most brilliant of minds
knows everything.

And it helps me to live
in a world where so many don’t see
the dangers I see; helps me believe
that one day we could learn
to recognize poison and take
the proper precautions.

*

The Wholeness of a Broken Heart

There is nothing more whole than a broken heart. –Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk

What is a whole heart?
One that remembers
how it feels
to be ripped apart.
One that can hear
another heart breaking.

A whole heart does not judge.
It forgives, knowing fear
and frustration rise faster
than reflection.

A whole heart
embraces what is,
without forgetting
what has been lost.

*

Jacqueline Jules is the author of three chapbooks including Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String, winner of the 2016 Helen Kay Chapbook Prize from Evening Street Press. Her work has appeared in over 100 publications including Lowestoft Chronicle, The Paterson Literary Review, Cider Press Review, Potomac Review, Inkwell, Hospital Drive, and Imitation Fruit. Visit her online at https://metaphoricaltruths.blogspot.com/

The Wisdom of Owls by Diane Elayne Dees

The Wisdom of Owls

The owls fled after Katrina,
but returned years later.
I hear them call
in the depths of night,
a plaintive cry
for all the lost wisdom,
blown away like
the uprooted pines.

*

Diane Elayne Dees’s poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies. She is the author of the chapbook, Coronary Truth (Kelsay Books), and the forthcoming chapbook, I Can’t Recall Exactly When I Died. Diane, who lives in Covington, Louisiana–just across Lake Pontchartrain from New Orleans–also publishes Women Who Serve, a blog that delivers news and commentary on women’s professional tennis throughout the world. Her author blog is Diane Elayne Dees: Poet and Writer-at-Large.

January Ars Poetica by Julia Caroline Knowlton

January Ars Poetica

        (for L.L. Knowlton)

Awake, more knotted dreams in my hands. 

It stays dark past dawn. Where have you gone?

With what spoken bone will you return?

Now I see: dust tossed in a lake became voice.

*

Julia Caroline Knowlton is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, where she has taught for twenty-five years. She has a PhD in French Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill and an MFA in Poetry from Antioch University. The author of four books, she was named a Georgia Author of the Year in 2018. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets College Prize and a Pushcart nominee. Her work has recently appeared in literary journals such as Boston Literary Magazine and Raw Art Review. You can find her on Facebook.