Love in the Time of Sunnydale by Michael J Carter

Love in the Time of Sunnydale
                                                      -for Steven

My love for you is like Buffy dusting
another vampire with her favorite stake,
Mr. Pointy. Or it’s like Buffy beheading
one more demon, sword slicing some evil
lackey with a relentless arc, stopping
or at least stalling the nefarious dealings
meant undo her. That’s love in action:
sharpening sticks for battle, frying the undead
with holy water all while punning
and finishing first year psychology
late into the night. Taking down a secret
government op with its brilliant leader
and Frankenstein creation who is only undone
by a combination of magic and guile conjured
under less than ideal the circumstances—
a hostile take-over of the whole world
by demons. This is one difficult life: apocalypse,
apocalypse, apocalypse. My love for you eats
them for breakfast all while wearing stylish
but affordable boots while battling the Bringers,
harbingers of the first evil, acolytes of the worst
of the worst with their eyes stitched shut,
two crisscrossed x’s like kisses.

*

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, MomEgg Review, Western Humanities Review, among many others. He spends his time walking his hounds and knitting.

Unrequited Love by Ruth Hoberman

Unrequited Love

I used to shun unrequited love.
Better to wait for someone
who could love me back.

But now the rocks ignore me;
the cedars, ruddy and disheveled,
lean away; the goldfinches flee

as I approach. Should I pretend
indifference? I study the robin’s
chirrup chirroo, the chickadee’s

yoo hoo, yoo hoo: the party-guest
no one wants to talk to, too dim
to understand the conversation,

much less join in. Still my silly skin
aches to love them all. This world
lays waste to reticence, upends

my glass, spills my wits,
my dignity, hangs my heart bare
as the binoculars splayed on my chest.

So, nothing returns my call.
At seventy I’ve given up
keeping score—willing

myself (at last) to love
what turns away.

*

For thirty years, Ruth Hoberman taught English at Eastern Illinois University. Since her 2015 retirement, her poems and essays have appeared in such journals as Comstock Review, Naugatuck River Review, Smartish Pace, RHINO, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Ploughshares.

Three Poems by Lois Perch Villemaire

Because You’re a Leo
           After Donika Kelly

You’re supposed to be confident,
happy to be the center of attention.
Not that you are that creature
knowing all too well
those waves of uneasiness
starting in your stomach
expanding to your shoulders and arms
worries over the crush of failure
moments of rejection
not being good enough
Are you a fraud?
Pretending to be something?

Don’t be so hard on yourself,
It’s a brand new season
relish those victories
those validations
summon up every shred
of positivity you can,
shape it into a mountain
of atomic strength,
acceptance of yourself
build on those affirmations
embrace the credit you deserve.

*

Dad Collected Penguins

Because he was a collector
of all sorts of things
from art to zebras
at one time he fell in love
with penguins
*
He told us penguins fly
through the water not the sky
diving deep into the world
of dreams— huddled together
—no wonder he held us close
calling us his chicks
*
we searched for penguin gifts
on holidays and his birthday:
mugs
pottery
framed artwork
sculpture
books
sweaters
*
until the day came when
Dad requested we stop
giving him penguins
we wondered why
but he laughed and said
his collection was complete
*
although he asked us
to cease gifting them
I will always associate
flightless seabirds with him
displaying mine like lucky stars
because at one time
he fell in love with penguins.

*

Who Lived on South 5th Street?

I’m done ruining my eyes
trying to read a spreadsheet
originated in 1910
to see who lived on South 5th Street,

After spending years
on family research,
spitting into a tube
sending it off to have
my DNA analyzed,

I’m done responding to
third cousins who may be related
but don’t have a family tree
or any helpful information,

I’m done paying Ancestry
several hundred dollars a year
to allow me to keep my research
in their data base,

I’m done running
into roadblocks each time
I try to figure out if Aunt Minnie
really had a son, James
who no one in the family recalls,

I’m done combing through
death notices on Newspapers dot com,
visiting rundown cemeteries
searching for gravestones
that may provide hints
to identify unknown ancestors,

And I’m really done
trying to figure out how
to pass along this information
because no one in my family
seems the least bit interested.

*

Lois Perch Villemaire resides in Annapolis, MD. Her stories, memoir flash, and poetry have been published in such places as Six Sentences, Ekphrastic Review, The RavensPerch, Trouvaille Review, FewerThan500, The Drabble, Pen In Hand, and Flora Fiction. Her poems have been included in anthologies published by Truth Serum Press, Global Insides – the Vaccine, American Writers Review 2021, and Love & the Pandemic by Moonstone Arts Center. She was a finalist in the 2021 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry.

Yellowing by Heidi Seaborn

Yellowing

The poet wrote yellow plum.
I saw harvest moon,
your globe of limoncello,
the end of our marriage
swirling in liquor the color
of a highlighter underscoring
all that had gone wrong.

I had already known yellow skies,
the pulse of caution lights.
Had driven the hairpin
curve of disappointment.

But this picking the lock
of my ribcage—my body still
milky, still swollen with words
I needed to spill. This leaving me
with the door slam of marriage—
our yawning bed, everything
banking into a snowdrift.

The baby, a bit jaundiced
I thought when the poet
wrote yellow plum.
I held her to my breast,
her lips like a moth.

*

Heidi Seaborn is Executive Editor of The Adroit Journal and author of PANK Poetry Prize winner An Insomniac’s Slumber Party with Marilyn Monroe, the acclaimed debut Give a Girl Chaos and Comstock Chapbook Award-winning Bite Marks. Recent work in Beloit Poetry Journal, Brevity, Copper Nickel, Cortland Review, Diode, Financial Times of London, The Missouri Review, The Offing, ONE ART, The Slowdown and the Washington Post. Heidi holds an MFA from NYU and teaches at the Hugo House. heidiseabornpoet.com

Three Poems by Jeffrey Hermann

Problems in a Canoe

The picture book says there is no magic
in a canoe, only a series of problems to be solved.
You loosen the cedar strips with steam
work them across cutouts and stem molds
to form the hull, the hollow space inside.

We have a fish instead of a dog. He rests
his head on the blue rocks at the bottom of the tank,
drapes his languid body over a plant,
limp, like a man in a hammock.
We press our fingers on the glass, say his name.

My daughter wonders about the Titanic, eerie
down there in the North Atlantic, too deep for fish.
Does it wish to be left alone all these years later
just its skeletons to keep it company?

Does it miss the two little boys who rowed away
in wet wool coats without their father?

When the water gets hazy and muck creeps
up the side of the tank, we get the net and bowl.
I slide my hand easy under the water
and raise him up. He’s still but for his gills waving
little waves in a spoonful of water.

He weighs nothing, wetness inside and out.
We take turns touching him softly, his skin glittery
blue and silver. Then I turn him back to the water,
his passage complete, safe in the little boat of my palm.

*

Lake Trout Notes

I ask these fish if they attach meaning and
emotion to their lives but they just swim off
with the bread I drop over the pier.

I don’t fish anymore. I don’t miss the hooks
or the taking of a life. I miss the holding of it
in my hands. Taught and slippery. The warning

and fight in the spines of its fins. A little river
of red down my palm because one of us has bled.

*

Masters of Fine Art

Because I never went to grad school
my students are confused about office hours
They wander a marble hallway

The essay never assigned on sensory illusion
in the nature poems of Wang Wei
is making them lose sleep and dream up excuses

Passionate sad stories about unreliable cars
or broken hearts

After all, they are unreliable, they are broken

A thousand miles away I’m writing ad copy
fabricating quotes for a chain of cupcake stores

Some days I actually whistle on my way out the door

And when I get into my car I notice
how the reflection
in my side mirror makes it look
as if the mountain
I’m driving away from
is growing closer and closer

*

Jeffrey Hermann’s poetry and prose has appeared in Hobart, Palette Poetry, UCity Review, trampset, The Shore, and other publications. Though less publicized, he finds his work as a father and husband to be rewarding beyond measure. 

Estuary by Valerie Bacharach

Estuary

Where river currents meet sea’s tide,
where salt and fresh water mingle,
where grief and joy blur edges,
a weaving of what the soul desires.
Plums and apricots, leftover bread,
the sounds of your laugh.

*

Valerie Bacharach received her MFA from Carlow University in poetry and is a member of the Madwomen in the Attic writing workshops. Her writing has appeared or will appear in: Vox Viola, Vox Populi, Whale Road Review, The Blue Mountain Review, EcoTheo Review, Kosmos Quarterly Journal, Amethyst Review, On the Seawall, Poetica, and Minyon Magazine. Her chapbook, Fireweed, was published in August 2018 by Main Street Rag. Her chapbook Ghost-Mother was published by Finishing Line Press in July, 2021. Her poem Self-Portrait with Origin Story was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Toads and Petroglyphs by Sharon Waller Knutson

Toads and Petroglyphs

Get up lady, the five-year-old says
as he x-rays me with dark eyes
and rips the sheet off my body.
Groggy on codeine and penicillin
after a yanked molar, I blink.

You’re mean lady, he says
when I snatch the Coca-Cola
and Hershey bar from him
and fix him a glass of milk
and bowl of granola for breakfast.

Catch me if you can, he shrieks
as he runs out the door of the RV
and up the hill behind the house site
where his father and my husband
carry logs and place them on the ceiling.

I give chase and heart valve flopping,
lose my balance, but he pops out
from behind an Ironwood.
Hanging onto the tree, he grabs
my hand and steadies me.

You’re pretty cool lady, he says
as we see Sonoran toads swimming
and serenading us in the Indian Baths.
We walk up to the rocks and he jumps
with joy as he views sketches
of his Native American ancestors.

Can you spare a dollar lady, he says
at twenty-years-old as he stands
on a street corner, arms and neck
tattooed like the petroglyphs,
his dark hair dirty and disheveled.
His eyes muddy as his jeans,
he sucks on an empty Coors bottle
he picks up from the gutter.

Do you remember me? I want to ask
but the woman who points him out
keeps on driving, reminding me
that he was raised on the streets
by drunks and druggies and that’s
all he knows. But the mother in me
still remembers the five-year-old boy
who thought toads and I were cool
and she wants to take him home.

*

A Note from The Author:

Toads and Petroglyphs is a true story about a boy I only spent a few hours with but fell in love with. It saddens me to know he probably doesn’t even remember me and to see him living on the streets but I know I can’t save him.

*

Sharon Waller Knutson is a retired journalist who lives in Arizona. She has published several poetry books including My Grandmother Smokes Chesterfields (Flutter Press 2014) and What the Clairvoyant Doesn’t Say and Trials & Tribulations of Sports Bob (Kelsay Books 2021.). Her work has also appeared in Trouvaille, One Art, Mad Swirl, The Drabble, Gleam, Spillwords, Muddy River Review, Verse-Virtual, Your Daily Poem, Red Eft Review, The Five-Three and The Song Is…

The Stranger by Steve Sibra

The Stranger

Second I saw him.
side of the road, I knew.

“I love you”, I said.
As he turned, I struck him,
a mallet breaking excuses.

He folded
                 like a wallet of stars,
my fist a rock inside him –
a punch, a beating,
the call of a second heart.

We lay down together,
side of the road –
brotherhood,
strangest of battles.

*

Steve Sibra grew up in a small farming community in eastern Montana. He is a 1980 graduate of the University of Montana and has been a writer most of his life, first published in 1974. His work has recently appeared in Chiron Review, Dead Skunk Magazine, Flint Hills Review, and others. Steve resides in Seattle.

Bird Watching by Maureen Fielding

BIRD WATCHING

In my mother’s garden
amid the blue hydrangeas,
begonias and hibiscus blooms,
a red-headed finch sits atop the fence,
nervously eyeing the feeder.

Prodding hungry stomach,
tiny internal debate—
last doubts extinguished,
fears overcome,
he flutters from fence to feeder,
hurriedly, blissfully
guzzles the seed provided with love,
always aware
that his quiet meal
may be jarringly interrupted,
that the same hand that pours the seed
and fills the bath
is the same that flings open the doors
and shatters the moments of silence, safety, sustenance.

For sometimes my mother stands
entranced at the window,
tuned to the finch’s fragile courage.
At other times
her world is devoid of finches.
She tramps loud and heavy
on the hearts of all.

*

Maureen Fielding is an associate professor of English and Women’s Studies at Penn State Brandywine. Her work has appeared in Westview, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Marathon Literary Review, WLA, and other journals. She has taught English in South Korea and is currently working on a chapbook based on research conducted in South Korea about Japanese Militarized Sexual Slavery. She has also written a novel inspired by her experiences as a Russian intercept operator in West Berlin during the Cold War.

Later by Cheryl Baldi

LATER

We speak in whispers,
move in silence
from room to room, listen
to the oxygen’s steady pump,
moisture bubbling through the tubes.
Three days unresponsive. I sit with her
until someone else comes in.
Years from now I will remember
these moments, the counter
scattered with crumbs
from half eaten sandwiches,
the tide low, winds calm,
Cormorants still perched
motionless in a line
along the pilings.
At first they seemed an omen,
messengers from the dead,
but I will wonder later
perhaps they were something other,
mournful attendants,
or angels, their black
wings spread wide
against the late day burn.

*

Cheryl Baldi is the author of The Shapelessness of Water and currently is at work on a new manuscript, In the Golden Hour, Cormorants. A former Bucks County Poet Laureate and a graduate of the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers, she was a finalist for the Robert Frasier Award for Poetry and the Francis Locke Memorial Award. She has taught at Bucks County Community College, worked as a free- lance editor, and served as co-facilitator for community-based workshops exploring women’s lives through literature. She lives with her husband in Bucks County, PA and along the coast in New Jersey.