Three Poems by Richard Bloom

Dear Larry Levis

Every forty minutes, the baby birds cry out for food.
Their beaks wide open,
Their throats, pink and red, like the throats of flowers.

If a berry drops from their beak, they can’t pick it up.
They’re just like the old people at the Hamilton Senior Center.
They can’t feed themselves, either.

And when the baby birds are satisfied, they no longer cry.
The flower of their desert colored throats close.
They puff out their scanty feathers.

What happened to their parents? They’re always better off with their parents.
Now I guess, I’m their mother.
Dear Larry Levis, my spine remembers wings.

*

Ballet in the trees

The sky is a washed-out blue.
The grass, a sickly brown.
The un-raked leaves crumple
like first drafts tossed in a waste basket.
I sit on the porch steps and watch a spider
pull one long strand of silk from
gutter to rainspout.
The soil in the field sleeps,
wanting warmth for the coming winter.

The trees are but half bare. Beside
the golden sycamore in my neighbor’s yard
stands a red maple. Its’ scarlet leaves
diminish the frail gold.
The sycamore is Diaghilev.
The maple is Nijinsky.
One says to the other: “Astonish me.”

*

Dust and baseball

I am eating a chicken burrito in Sonora when two
outfielders from the Mexican Baseball League stop
in for a beer.

I ask them to autograph the glove I’ve carried with me
since childhood. It’s a Rawlings,
soiled, oiled, and blackened
by the plays of a thousand games.

The fields of Sonora are dry as a prisoner’s throat.
The buses from West Texas
roll past the supermercado
and the dinner plate of the moon.

The bus depot/luncheonette is open
all night for passengers, police, and traffickers.
It is the only place I ever saw a man kick a dog.

The two great institutions of Sonora are dust and baseball.

Paul, my best friend growing up, came to Mexico to play ball.
The Diablos Rojos signed him.
They called him Kid. He played catcher.
One day, in mirage inducing heat, a girl named Rosa came to see him play.
They had met at a bar somewhere in town.
He didn’t play well that day. He never played well again.

He and Rosa got married.
She took him to Guadalajara to work for her father.
He was a businessman.
He ran one brothel and seven funeral parlors.

A year later, his head was found in a ditch.
In his catcher’s mitt.

*

Richard Bloom has published in various magazines, including Seneca Review, New York Quarterly, Barnwood International, and Eunoia Review. He has attended Breadloaf, and studied poetry writing with several accomplished poets at the 92nd Street Y. He worked in advertising for many years. Currently, he is a substitute teacher in the NYC public schools.

I Wanted to Be a Painter by Leslie Schultz

I Wanted to Be a Painter

And I still do.
I picture lying down
to soak up malachite
and vermillion
through my pink skin,
rubbing my face with wild
persimmon and aubergine,
then washing myself clean
with icy aquamarine.

I’ve tried. It’s true.
See from these twisted,
empty tubes just what
I cannot do.

So I retreat now into
bone-pale paper-birch strips,
add marks in reed-strokes
of midnight tone,
all hushed, mute,
stark—
each line one sharp-edged
Scandinavian hue.

*

Leslie Schultz (Northfield, Minnesota) has three collections of poetry, Still Life with Poppies: Elegies; Cloud Song; and Concertina (Kelsay Books, 2016, 2017, 2019) and a chapbook, Larks at Sunrise: Light-hearted Poems for Dark Times (Green Gingko Press, 2021). Her poetry is in many journals, including Able Muse, Blue Unicorn, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Light, Mezzo Cammin, North Dakota Quarterly, Poet Lore, Third Wednesday, The Madison Review, The Midwest Quarterly, The Orchards, Tipton Poetry Review, and The Wayfarer; 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 at www.winonamedia.net.

Three Poems by Lorelei Bacht

Orb Weaver

As the wife, I have developed
A bad reputation,

Although in truth my nature is
Industrious and meek,

My nights and days tenderly spent
In domestic labor:

Caring for the two little ones,
A fragile construction

Of time, milk bottles, fortitude,
And imagination;

Imagining that he loves me
And will return from work

Inspired and obligated
By the cloud-thin netting

Of quiet, resigned affection
I have woven for him.

My fragile work holds us in place:
It is our home address.

And when he tears it carelessly,
With the back of the hand,

I consume the tangle of silk,
And set to work again.

*

White Bird

No-one remembers
To feed the bird in its cage,
A brush stroke of white

Watching turtle doves
Arrive and depart at ease –
No tether, no bars.

In a small mirror:
A reflection, companion
Unattainable.

Desires the size
Of horizons limited:
To the perch and back.

When we procured it,
You promised regular care,
Like a six-year-old,

Then quickly forgot,
Looking for more exotic –
White bird left behind.

I took up the job
Of feeding your abandoned
Every now and then.

To your wife the chores,
To you the purposeless thrill
Of the chase, the chase.

*

The Homecoming

Two springs after we left the house,
The turtle dove returned –

Morning song: a gentle flutter
Of blue-grey in the pines.

It came back when we stopped wishing
It back – as if it knew

That wanting can never equate
Having, and only flew

Back into the abandoned yard
Long after grass had gone

To seeds, relishing the silence,
The freedom only found

In hopeless, overgrown spaces.
(Hope really is a cage.)

And when I thought I’d lost it all,
He loved me once again.

*

Lorelei Bacht (she/they) is a person, a poet, queer, multi-, living in Asia. When she is not drawing sad little sketches, she writes – too much. Her work has appeared / is forthcoming in Anti-Heroin Chic, Visitant, The Wondrous Real, Abridged, Odd Magazine, Postscript, PROEM, SWWIM, Strukturriss, The Inflectionist Review, Hecate, and others. She is also on Instagram: @lorelei.bacht.writer and on Twitter @bachtlorelei

Sunday Morning Service by Le Hinton

Sunday Morning Service

Kneel, then touch the white blaze on your border
collie’s black face. Absorb her expansive
eyes that hold the world’s kindness.

For today’s scripture, turn to 1 Mary Morris,
read her words slowly with intention. Most
of life is sacred, most meaningful moments are missed.

Listen to Tyler Barton’s sermon, his praise
to the those who have gone before,
for those who will be absent soon.

In your hymnal, turn to “A Love Supreme,”
the holiest of psalms. Sing out. Sing with the clouds,
the ice cream, the stillness of your own breath.

Go outside to the collection plate that is our world.
Tithe to the birds, the squirrels, the worms in the soil.
Bow your head in prayer. Pray for this very earth.

*

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.

What It Means To Be Beautiful by Ilari Pass

What It Means To Be Beautiful

There is a planet with a moon
inside my water bottle. A breeze
makes small faces, expressions
of surprising love, I thank you.
Thank you for your nightly visits,
your gentle birdsong. Borrowed light alone
can’t make out in this house. This clutter—
the catch-all for my life. I feel
your glare of disapproval.
Come closer. The night
in your eye is a shade colder. Why
does everything have to be beautiful?
I don’t trust it. Let’s go
ruin something.

*

Ilari Pass holds a BA in English from Guilford College of Greensboro, NC, and an MA in English, with a concentration in literature, from Gardner-Webb University of Boiling Springs, NC. She currently is poetry consultant for Free State Review, and serves as a Representative Reader for the African American culture for North Carolina Writers’ Network. You can find her Greatest Hits in The American Journal of Poetry, Free State Review, Sledgehammer Lit, Paterson Literary Review, and others.

A Poem by Milton P. Ehrlich

TIME FLEW BY

When I danced
cheek to cheek with you.
Now time is grinding down
as I wait for my last breath.
I rock back and forth
in my old rocking chair
remembering all our kisses.
I once saw my father’s rocking chair
rocking after he’d passed away.
I hope mine will keep rocking too.

*

Milton P. Ehrlich is a 90-year-old psychologist and a veteran of the
Korean war who has published many poems in periodicals such as the
Poetry Review, London Grip, Red wheelbarrow, Wisconsin Review,
Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times.

How to Turn Someone in an Interrogation by Marissa Glover

How to Turn Someone in an Interrogation

Rule #1: Look for what
makes them human. Ask
about their mother parent.
Not everyone has
a mother. Find common
ground, shared experiences.
Tell them about your
childhood surgery—
stress how hard it was
to recover. Even if their
body has never been cut,
they can imagine.
Show them scars;
they’ll know it hurt.
Share enough details
to make it feel real;
invent the rest. After pain,
offer reprieve. Often,
this brief kindness is
all they need to trust.

Rule #2: Be patient.
It will take years time
to find exactly what
you’re looking for. After,
exploit the soft spot;
this is the torture
vulnerability everyone
wants to avoid. We can’t
see it, but we’re already
walking around with
numbers over our head,
a red digital countdown
marking the moments left,
like a shot clock telling
us to hurry. Like a timer
on a wired bomb
impossible for us to
disarm. We’re all just
one conversation away
from breaking.

*

Marissa Glover lives in Florida, where she teaches at Saint Leo University and serves as co-editor of Orange Blossom Review and a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. Marissa’s creative work was most recently published in Rattle and her poem “The World Asks Too Much of Mothers,” first featured in Whale Road Review, is a 2020 Best of the Net Finalist. Her full-length poetry collection, LET GO OF THE HANDS YOU HOLD, was released by Mercer University Press on April 1, 2021. You can follow Marissa on Twitter and Instagram at _MarissaGlover_.

My Heart is a Shattered Windshield by Victoria Melekian

My Heart is a Shattered Windshield

Four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, I’ve driven
three hours to a Best Western in the crappy part of town
for my son’s doctor appointment in the morning.
The desk clerk asks if I’m here on business or pleasure.

I look at the mangled Von’s grocery cart in the empty parking lot
through smudges on the glass lobby door. “Pleasure,” I say,
but the truth is neither. Untreated, my son’s life expectancy
is two point eight years. His disease can be managed,

but not cured, and the cost of medication is near impossible.
The truth is we’ve waited thirteen months for insurance
approval to see this specialist. The truth is I’m a howling
windstorm of fear—my boy is thirty-seven, not even middle aged.

I don’t yet know there is hope, that tomorrow the doctor will reach
into a drawer and toss my son a six-thousand-dollar miracle drug,
a bottle of pills lobbed across his desk like a red and yellow
beach ball sailing through a shimmering summer sky.

*

Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California where the weather is almost always perfect. She writes poetry and short fiction. You can read her work here: www.victoriamelekian.com

Two Poems by Rebecca Starks

NIGHT VISION

In those moments I fumbled in the dark
you were the dog from the Atsugewi tale
bringing back fire cupped in coal-black ears,
lop-tips parrying buffets of rain
while you suffered pain sparks to burrow overnight,
pawing the coals out for me to cook with
once morning stole in. Then you disappear
from the telling, like a fire left to burn down:
the people praise the food and go out hunting.
How still you stood, the bright weave behind your eyes
letting no light escape.

*

SURROGATE

Midwinter saw a tug-of-war, my son
pulling me into the womb he wouldn’t leave.
When we first came home I had expected you
to wonder at the miracle—me, baby;
but after one sniff you gave him a wide berth
and lay Sphinx-pawed, back to the open doorway.
Conscientious objector? Ceding your place?
Standing guard? I suspect you didn’t know
yourself what instinct had kicked in, and with it
lassitude, ennui you’d always known
just what to do. Not me.

*

Rebecca Starks is the author of the poetry collections Time Is Always Now, a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award, and Fetch, Muse (forthcoming from Able Muse Press), and is the recipient of Rattle’s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Valparaiso Review, Crab Orchard Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She lives in Richmond, Vermont.

Unstuck by Brian O’Sullivan

Unstuck

Is there a newsreel, dear?,
Mom asks in the darkened cinema, her voice bubbly,
and I want to tell her there are no newsreels anymore—
Edsels are gone and flying DeLoreans are coming—
but I know for her newsreels are
now, and,
breathing buttered popcorn,
I feel my hand clenching under my seat’s arm,
picking at dried bubble gum, and
I don’t want her to hear sirens, so, as the screen flickers, I, smiling though tightened jaws,
whisper back, No newsreel today, Mom.
              But watch!

*

Brian O’Sullivan teaches rhetoric and English literature in southern Maryland. He has published in Everyday Fiction and in academic non-fiction periodicals, including KB and Studies in American Humor.