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.

A Poetry Reading by Dan Brook

A Poetry Reading

we met at a poetry event
one person reading Ted Hughes
another Sylvia Plath
in tense conversation
we fell for each other
through those words
make love poetically
like a hummingbird
sipping nectar from a pink flower
getting drunk on it
every single day
quieter in her public life
she’s emotionally volatile in her verbiage
often dazzling
she recently sang to me
putting on her best Carly Simon
sneering and crooning
you’re so vain
you probably think this poem is about you
don’t you?, don’t you?, don’t you?
but it is about me
I know it is
nearly all her poems
since we met
are about her, me, or us
how she was, who I am, what we’ll be
though my poems cover more ground
she’s the finer poet
with more depth, nuance, feeling
wordsmithing like a wizard
and I love her for it
more with each poem
even when she hates herself

*

Dan Brook teaches in the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences at San Jose State University, from where he organizes the Hands on Thailand program. His most recent books are Harboring Happiness: 101 Ways To Be Happy (Beacon, 2021), Sweet Nothings (Hekate, 2020), about the nature of haiku and the concept of nothing, and Eating the Earth: The Truth About What We Eat (Smashwords, 2020).

Visitation by Sean Kelbley

VISITATION

Damon’s day is going great,
by which I mean he wouldn’t join
at carpet for the read-aloud or math

but didn’t bolt the room, throw scissors,
rip up anybody’s work. No one got choked
or punched or kicked at morning recess.

I’m his reward. Me and my sand tray,
fidgets, Thera-Doh. Me with no other kids.
He likes my sound machine—the white noise

best. He likes to poke through all my “Pop Its.”
He doesn’t like to turn my timer to ten minutes
but it’s public school, so he can’t ever get

his own all-day adult. Best I can do is try
to set a clock in him that’s not a bomb.
This be poison hot dog, make you sick

he says. But pulls the ends around, transforms
the fat blue cylinder of putty into circle.
This pill make you better. He raises it

toward my mouth and I pretend to take a bite.
He lifts it higher, just above his head. The vessel
of his body shines and warns: so many things

can happen next. I did a miracle, he says,
and this my Angel Hat. Locks eyes with mine
and waits for me to wrestle, or believe.

*

Sean Kelbley lives with his husband on a former state experimental farm in Appalachian southeastern Ohio, in a house they built together. He works as a primary school counselor. Sean’s poetry has appeared in RATTLE, Sheila-Na-Gig Online, Still: The Journal, Sugar House Review, and other wonderful places including anthologies, nature trails, and high school marching band competition shows.

poem by James Penha

Tomorrow could be the coldest day in three years in America
meteorologically, but it’s the fever of its politics
and the warming of our oceans that chill me to the bone.

*

A native New Yorker, James Penha (he/him) has lived for the past three decades in Indonesia. Nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and poetry, his work is widely published in journals and anthologies. His newest chapbook of poems, American Daguerreotypes, is available for Kindle. His essays have appeared in The New York Daily News and The New York Times. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry. Twitter: @JamesPenha

Four Poems by Anastasia Vassos

It’s Nobody’s Fault

Night is an old woman snoring
& daybreak yet to be born.

I woke up alone.
I stand on the balcony of our pensione

& watch you stroll Rome’s stradas
lost, at 5am, heart perforated

your body weary & apart

while you think of
another woman & her yellow hair

spread across a pillow
like a river’s tributaries.

I will love you
into my own drowning.

The river inside your eyes
has overflowed its banks

the Colosseum’s arches peer at you
as you stalk twilight.

You’re a book
about to be written.

Learn to forgive everyone
who’s ever hurt you.

Sign your name in dirt
with the toe of your shoe.

*

Cassandra Leaves Troy

princess at the mouth
of Troy whose luck
with Apollo
ran dry, ironically
who saw the noble Greeks
inside the belly of the horse
not believed
let’s call her
a stained copy
another life
that could have been

she’s the tall girl
escaping through her window
backwards her long coltish legs
one then the other
retracting night
her white gown
left on the floor
in a pool of moonlight

*

Icarus As Rust

      after Paul McIntire

In supposed flight, suspended.
You were a hawk
bones made of lace
from the sun’s collar.

Past your archaic time
rusted porous wings
and contrapposto
weightlessness and gravity.

Your chiton strangles you.
Red dust sun curls his lip
blood moon curls
her silver tongue.

*

Late Afternoon

Birds circle:
rich entertainment
and in the middle of it
nature not quite dead.
The sun’s blade makes
one last stab
across my back.

I am leaving you,
October of my grieving—
your gray head
your orange skirt flouncing
round your ankles.
I drive east in low gear
along the unmuscled arm of Ohio
heading toward November.

And as the sun falls behind me
trees huddle to mask
disaster. Darkness, unwelcome
takes over the sky.
I thank the stars for making
a colander of night.

I look up and ahead
through heaven’s perforation.
The landscape shrivels past
I am Orpheus in a dress
and Eurydice blind.
I drive under an overpass.
Lights strain, headlights on the bridge
gleam like the eye
in the head of an oracle.

*

Anastasia Vassos is the author of Nike Adjusting Her Sandal (Nixes Mate, 2021). Her chapbook The Lesser-Known Riddle of the Sphinx was a finalist for the 2021 Two Sylvias Chapbook Prize. She is a reader for Lily Poetry Review, speaks three languages, and is a long-distance cyclist. She lives in Boston.

My Father and Pavarotti by Andrea Potos

My Father and Pavarotti

On my stereo this morning,
just as I lean in to write, Pavarotti
came on, his aria filling the whole room.
I’m not schooled enough to know
which aria, only how my father loved him
and how, leaving his crabbiness aside, my father
would sit watching the Lake Michigan surf
from his living room window while the great man sang
over the speakers that filled the house;
and on the patio of his Southern winter home,
he listened, while the lapis surface of the pool sparkled;
then in the last years of the rehab home where he lived
with his rescued brain, a small carved canyon still visible
where the surgeon had rushed in. Once a week I drove
the eighty miles to sit with him there, his silver hair
still blazing, his eyes closed as we absorbed the pure notes
of the rich tenor who sang to my father still.

*

This poem is forthcoming in Andrea’s collection Her Joy Becomes (Fernwood Press, fall, 2022).

*

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books) and Mothershell (Kelsay Books). A new collection entitled Her Joy Becomes is due out from Fernwood Press in the fall of 2022. She has poems forthcoming in The Sun Magazine, Poetry East, Spiritus Journal, and The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy (Storey Publishing, April 2022).

Three Poems by Gloria Heffernan

It Figures

My favorite figure
skaters are not
the ones who score
a perfect ten.
My favorites are
the ones who fall.

More specifically,
the ones who fall
and get back up.
without even brushing
the powdered ice
from their bruised behinds.
They just clamber
to their feet and go.

They are my heroes.
Why are there no
gold medals for them?
What is three minutes
of perfection compared to
a lifetime of resilience?

*

Geology

The knowing begins
to settle in layers
like the diagrams
in my fourth grade
science book
with its drawings
of the earth
from the crust
down to the core
where the molten center
bubbles quietly
until some seismic shift
causes it to churn,
erupt and obliterate
everything in its path.

*

Regrets

If anyone should ask
what I most regret,
it will be the stories
I didn’t tell.

The story of the dream I had
the night before Jackie died.
The way he stood
at the foot of the steps
bathed in white light.
“I’m all right now,” he said,
after the long months
of suffering and surgeries.
“It’s okay.”

When his mother called
the next morning
to tell us he had died,
I never told her
that I already knew.
Never said,
“Don’t worry. He’s okay.”
Never tried to explain
why I didn’t cry
when I heard the news.

And now she too is gone.

*

Gloria Heffernan is the author of the poetry collection, What the Gratitude List Said to the Bucket List, (New York Quarterly Books), and Exploring Poetry of Presence: A Companion Guide for Readers, Writers and Workshop Facilitators (Back Porch Productions). She has written two chapbooks: Hail to the Symptom (Moonstone Press) and Some of Our Parts, (Finishing Line Press). Her work has appeared in numerous literary journals including Chautauqua, Braided Way, Stone Canoe, and Columbia Review.

Portrait of the woman under observation by Annie Stenzel

Portrait of the woman under observation

In the new place, at dawn the eastern light
finds its way through three tall windows.

At night, a street-lamp mimics the moon,
sneaks in to amend the bedroom’s darkness.

All day, not far away, freight trains take a leisurely
tour of small-town tracks. Clang-clang-clang-clang

as the barriers descend on sundry streets. Traffic
is philosophical. It’s only a matter of time.

En route to one word, another word interposes itself: Why not
say Vespoli when you mean Tivoli? Okay. No harm done.

Already, she finds things put away in the wrong
drawer, or on a shelf too high for easy access.

A labyrinth of boxes and bags dwindles, but
hodgepodged items loom where they were dropped.

Every move from one space to the next previews
that unthinkable portal to the place that is no place at all.

*

Annie Stenzel (she/her) was born in Illinois, but did not stay put. Her full-length collection is The First Home Air After Absence (Big Table Publishing, 2017). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in print and online journals in the U.S. and the U.K., from Ambit to Thimble, with stops at Chestnut Review, Gargoyle, Nixes Mate, On the Seawall, Psaltery & Lyre, SWWIM, Stirring, and The Lake, among others. Her second collection was recently shortlisted for the Washington Prize at The Word Works. A poetry editor for the online journals Right Hand Pointing and West Trestle Review, she lives on unceded Ohlone land within walking distance of the San Francisco Bay.