Sonnet by Sharon Waller Knutson

Sonnet

She says her mother named
her Sonnet because she loved
Edna St. Vincent Millay and read
her Love is Not Blind in the crib.

In her Mickey Mouse voice,
she tells us she has rescued
a newborn wren that needs
to be fed every 30 minutes.

Left it in a cage in her two-bedroom
apartment along with the bulldog,
Border Collie, two Siamese
and five four-week-old kittens.

Baby birds are fragile. Hope it survives
while I’m at work for three hours,
she says smiling as Shirley Temple
curls fall on her forehead.

Cool, she says as I tell her again
to please hang up my mother-
in-law’s silk blouses and slacks
and brand new birthday dress

and not wad them up and throw
them in the hamper like wrappers
and to wring out the wet towels
and hang them up to dry.

We are watching videos
when my mother-in-law
rings the bell rigged to her recliner.
As we rush in, she says, Wake her up!

Sonnet is sleeping soundly
and surprised when we shake
her shoulders and like a Stepford
Wife, she stands up and grins

as she gently lifts my mother-
in-law from the recliner
and wheels her to the hospital
bed and tucks her in.

*

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in a wildlife habitat in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields by Flutter Press and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her work has also appeared in various journals most recently in Mad Swirl, Trouvaille Review, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review and The Song Is…

Two Poems by Sandra Kohler

Forgiveness

This morning I am mourning my mother
again, anew, mourning her as I did not,
could not, didn’t know how when she died,
when her death was given to me as fact
to accept and ignore, not as feeling, not
as anything to mourn. In the car coming
from the cemetery I wept, and thought as
I did what all the passersby thought of
the sobbing child, how they imagined
the cause of her crying. I stood outside
that child, that weeping, those tears, I
watched it as I might a scene in a play
whose meaning I needed to discern and
could not. I could not. I could not learn
from my own tears, could not get inside
my own mind, could not feel that what
was happening to me was real. No one
told me that it was, no one named my
motherlessness, no one answered my
unspoken questioning of what was
happening, of how my life was being
changed. No one saw me. Who needs
forgiveness: that child who did not
mourn, those adults who did not show
her she needed to do so? All of us.
Along with the mother who made it
all happen by leaving, by dying.

*

This is Not a Bandage

When our granddaughter sees the helmet of bandages
her grandfather sports after his fall, hospitalization,
return home, fainting spell, rehospitalization, release,
beginning recovery, she asks to sign it, and inscribes

the white swaths in black ink: “This is a bonnet not
a bandage.” Our six-year old Magritte, confident
labeller of the real. I was afraid he would die on her
birthday, darken joys to come. She tells me she dreamt

she found herself outdoors, in a field of blossoming
clover, folding huge bolts of cloth with a group
of Amish women, who were kind to her but spoke
a language she could not understand. I walk through

my house these days choosing what to give away. I
clear it out, pare it down: a bandage, a helmet, a pipe.

*

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.

His by Claire Marsden

His

He described me like one of
Knight’s paintings;
Distinctive
Forceful
Sensuous.
I think he should like to hang me
on the wall,
admire and study me,
not a single brushstroke overlooked.
His.
But I would never give him
such power,
my scars belong to another.

*

Claire Marsden enjoys writing poetry, CNF and flash fiction, and is thrilled many of her pieces have found wonderful homes both online, and in print. Say hi to her to her on twitter @occulife

One Poem by Andrea Potos

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY OF MY MOTHER’S PASSING

Her joy becomes my joy. —
         Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

This June morning, flickering light and shadow
on the spread pages of my book
while somewhere above me in the arching
and waving branches of the beeches, one cardinal
keeps throbbing an unceasing song.
And the sky–did I mention the cloudless sky?
The softest blue, as if created
with the pastels of a master, then brushed across
with the gentlest sweep of her arm.

*

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Marrow of Summer and Mothershell, both from Kelsay Books; and A Stone to Carry Home from Salmon Poetry. You can find her poems many places online and in print, most recently in Spirituality & Health Magazine, Braided Way, Buddhist Poetry Review, and Poetry East. She is actively working on a new collection of poems, generated from the epigraph on this poem, called “Her Joy Becomes.”

Memorial Sloane Kettering, 2007 by Gerry LaFemina

Memorial Sloane Kettering, 2007

9:30. Upper East Side. A neighborhood
I hadn’t walked in in years,
though a group of my peers loiter outside
some with cigarettes,
some with cell phones,
some unwrapping the cellophane from a sandwich
—just a little more litter for the world—
before slumping against the cement foundation
strung out from work & witness.
My coffee exhales into morning light
smelling of Columbia, of Arabica.
This could have been the velvet line
waiting for some club to open its doors
a decade back, in our decadent, care-free twenties,
but I recognize no one
& no one checks my ID in the lobby.
No one shouts & pushes
to get up front. The alcohol scent astringent.
The elevator is a small cell of sadness
in its ascension. It stops with a chippy ping
so out of place when its doors open
to the fifth floor children’s ward:
I glimpse only the bald heads, emaciated
frames of 7-year-olds, & one father’s
swollen, unshaven face, like
illuminations from some forlorn copy of the Inferno,
one monks refused to copy, but no,
this is still Manhattan & the man beside me
no Virgil, just a stranger with the familiar
visage of the bereaved, eyes to the floor.
The flowers seem to wilt in my fist as we rise
to the head & neck ward
where a few patients walk with IV carts in tow,
circling the elevator bay & nurses’ station,
where someone is sobbing behind a drawn curtain,
where my mother has slept these last three nights.

*

Gerry LaFemina is the author of numerous collections of poetry, fiction, and criticism. In 2022 he’ll have two new books released: The Pursuit: A Meditation on Happiness (creative nonfiction) and The American Ruse (poems). He is a Professor of English at Frostburg State University, serves as a mentor in Carlow University’s MFA program, is a Fulbright specialist in Writing and American Culture, and fronts the punk rock band The Downstrokes.

Ash Wednesday by Natalie Homer

Ash Wednesday

Dull February, and the dry lilac begs to be cut.
Another window of opportunity I’ll recognize and let pass.

This whole winter has been a false spring;
hopeful daffodil leaves test the air with green fingers.

Is the function of the pew kneeler to hurt me
just enough that I wish the prayer to be over?

I accept my smeared gray diadem, my memento mori.
Some messages need no dedications.

I think of the road in the woods
and the bend, the curve like any other

except in this one: mattresses, tires, and trash
piled next to an otherwise scenic creek

cascading over rocks—geometric sheaves of falling water
on its way to a sickly stretch of Monongahela.

Who decided this particular bend in the road
would be the best repository? And who followed suit?

Later, in a different context, an answer comes,
with the reckless confidence that only men have—

That’s the way it’s been done for thousands of years.
Who am I to argue with the millennia?

*

Natalie Homer’s recent poetry has been published in Puerto del Sol, American Literary Review, Four Way Review, Ruminate, Sou’wester, and others. She received an MFA from West Virginia University and lives in southwestern Pennsylvania. Her first collection, Under the Broom Tree, is forthcoming from Autumn House Press.

Three Poems by Michael J Carter

Ghost Bus: Iiyama, Nabekura Plateau, Nagano Prefecture

A bus still runs its full route,
on roads cut through rice
and asparagus fields, the driver
still generates a pension
impeccable in his serious uniform
and white driving gloves. We all wave
when he drives away, Japanese style
two-handed, broad palmed. The only secure
bit of the language I’ve acquired in one day.
Our host tells us that no one ever boards
the bus, it remains empty all day,
every day, but keeps running
as a monument to the hope
of revitalization like that part
of me that remembers to call
my dad before I remember
that he’s dead. Sometimes,
I even say, Oh shit, its Sunday
I have to call him when
I get home. My dad’s favorite story
about his own father is how once a month
his dad would put on his suit and
go to the bank to pay off the loan
on the farm that failed. Ghost money
paying for a ghost farm, tilling
a future, seed pods empty as this bus,
prompt and hopeful.

*

Smell the Lilacs

Clicked on the burner
for tea and walked outside
to smell the lilacs at the end
of the driveway. An old craggy
bush, neglected by the landlords,
with both white and purple blossoms.
They opened yesterday
the same day I received
a note from my sister:
I just wanted you to know
that Mom’s headstone
was placed yesterday
at her grave. All day
The rain came in bursts,
grief-like, and now the sun
is setting over a saturated field—
bright green, shadow green,
a crab-apple tree is gussied up
in spring pinks wrapped
in a factory of bees rebuilding
the world. Then I went back
in to make tea, sat by the window,
and let it go cold.

*

Resurrection: Back Home

I brought you back to life
and then I called you
celebrating the miracle of your rebirth.
You were alive, the way you were.
You said, I’m watching your father hang pictures…
That was the deal, he did that while you rested
but you were tired, wanted off the phone
and Dad was busy.

*

Michael J Carter is a poet and clinical social worker. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College he holds an MFA from Vermont College and an MSW from Smith. Poems of his have appeared in such journals as Boulevard, Ploughshares, Provincetown Arts Magazine, Western Humanities Review, among many others. He lives with his two hounds and spends his time swimming and knitting.

Two Poems by Chad Frame

Shepard

There on the hill—
a scarecrow—no—

a boy, tear-tracks
through blood and grime,

slumped, arms raised, tied
to a buck rail,

and left to watch
over his flock.

When I learn this,
I’m just fifteen,

a sophomore,
thinking maybe

I could just tell
someone, a friend,

what I’m feeling,
grow bold enough

to act on it.
What is a kiss?

the cold pistol
our attraction

has whipped us with.
Matthew, I wish

I could show you
what you’ve achieved,

a boy, tear-tracks
through blood and grime.

*

Dungeons &

two eighth grade outcasts & a lunch table
& telling jokes & brandishing a Cheeto
like a wizened staff to cheer you up
when that girl from Algebra & you don’t work out
& I shout Gandalf the Orange! & you snort Pepsi
like flames & your cheeks dimple & you shake
sleek hair from your brown eyes & we toss dice
& I can’t admit it’s not an elf
& not a wizard I’m pretending to be
& I love you & I’m sorry & for me
it’s never been a game about dragons.

*

Chad Frame’s work appears in Rattle, Pedestal, Rust+Moth, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere, as well as on iTunes from the Library of Congress. He is Director of the Montgomery County Poet Laureate Program and Poet Laureate Emeritus of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Poetry Editor of Ovunque Siamo, a founding member of the No River Twice poetry improv/performance troupe, and founder/director of the Caesura Poetry Festival and Retreat. His collection, Little Black Book, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

Three Poems by Le Hinton

Meditation on Rain on a Blue Porch

This shower speaks of Evans’ piano.
A light touch on the roof —
a remembrance of the bleeding—

a dampened cry and the blunted
hope that “We Will Meet Again,”
knowing we won’t.

*

Meditation on Rain on a Black Porch

The drops echo Trane’s
“Impressions Live at the Village
Vanguard.” My grief keeps pace

with the velocity of the music and my heartbeat.
16th notes flow skyward like Black
bodies in a summer of tempests.

*

Meditation on Rain on a Red Porch

The thunder calls first, then the flash. We comfort ourselves
with lies: We’re safe here. We’re not afraid of ghosts
or what we owe them. It’s the ozone scent

of lightning that reminds me of Cage’s “First Construction
(in Metal),” the iron in a blood-red stream,
the scream when it overflows its banks.

*

Le Hinton is the author of six poetry collections including, most recently, Sing Silence (Iris G. Press, 2018). His work can be found or is forthcoming in The Best American Poetry 2014, The Progressive Magazine, the Skinny Poetry Journal, The Baltimore Review, The Pittsburgh Review, and outside Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Three Poems by Margot Douaihy

Alanis

It started the way all great things start—by accident. As I danced to your heartbreak, Alanis, the house caught fire. Pittsburgh, 1996, dancing on the sofa, my fists coiled in rage, feral as a child running through Red Rover, bodies fighting for space, & my lit Parliament fell. I was the most closeted kid with the most tragic style in that busted lip of a Rust Belt town. My thrift-store skirt
was unfortunate—the matte-black crust of the scorched sofa, the acrid echo of my lit cigarette falling, falling, still falling, into the past-stained future. Time is the original magic trick & fire is the only science, Alanis. I was so lost then & less lost now, but I still feel that girl rattling inside me like a skeleton key. Do you ever close your eyes as you dance & imagine being someone else, anyone else? Once, in dark gay bar, a boy mistook me for you—“It’s Alanis Morissette!” His eyes delirious. Instead of saying “I’m not Alanis,” I smiled & lit his cigarette with mine. I stole you that night, Alanis. I’m still stealing pieces of women to see myself. At least I quit smoking.

*

Crush

Crushed it! Killed it! Nailed it!
I’m tired of certainty—
lexical combat
every day. What I want
to say is unkill it. Let
the boat float away.
Lose the trail & stay
in the forest.
The unfinished is the only
story worth starting.
Pine needles stippled with rain.
The tiny beat of the cardinal’s
heart. What a lightning
bug thinks of lightning.
Your first crush
who moved to Beirut
before you could
tell her she was cute.

*

Luck

It’s not right, the wind
these days. I stop
the idling car
& think of stronger
trees to plant.

It’s too late,
says a radio voice,
the Earth is too hot.
Mars is our best bet.

More birch fell by the riverbank.
Branches like arms outstretched,
the devastating choreography
of a stomped roach.

It doesn’t matter
& it’s all that matters,
the way I scan
the ground for pennies
to flip—from tails
to heads—leaving
some good luck
& money
for strangers to find.

How many wishes
do we get in this life?
What would they think—
the angels or aliens sailing
past our blue planet—
if they saw me, you,
all us, one by one,
kneeling silently,
out of fear or hope,
turning tiny faces
towards the sun.

*

Margot Douaihy, PhD, is the author of three books, including Girls Like You (Clemson University Press), a Lambda Literary finalist. Her work has been featured in PBS NewsHour, North American Review, Colorado Review, Madison Review, South Carolina Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Adirondack Review, and Wisconsin Review. She is the editor of the Northern New England Review.