THINGS TO DO AS THE PLANE GOES DOWN by Sharon Corcoran

THINGS TO DO AS THE PLANE GOES DOWN

Try not to add to the screams.
There will be enough, and more.
Your phone will fail you.
Whisper goodbyes to your heart
and all who dwell there.
Think of the past times you promised
yourself: today it is okay to die—
and tried to mean it.
Return to your breath
as you have been trained.
Even facing the imminent darkness,
you still can’t be sure how many
are left to count. Don’t count.
Only breathe in with gratitude.
And surrender.

*

Sharon Corcoran is a native of St. Louis now living in southern Colorado. At Washington University in St. Louis she studied psychology and linguistics as an undergraduate, and completed an MFA degree in writing there. She has worked in the arts and in a university setting, and as an editor and book indexer. She also translated (from French) the writings of North African explorer Isabelle Eberhardt in the works In the Shadow of Islam and Prisoner of Dunes published by Peter Owen Ltd., London. Her poems have appeared in Kansas Quarterly, River Styx, Canary, and The Buddhist Poetry Review, among other journals.

ONE ART’s 2020 Pushcart Prize Nominations

Notice Breath

          for Julia

Notice Breath, my yoga teacher says.
It’s the year of Corona and I take her class
in New Jersey from my house across state lines,
and what I notice today is the lovely unspecificity.
Not notice my breath, or hers, just breath itself
moving unhitched, animating each of us.
One friend with the virus describes
a burning like inhaled chemical fumes.
Another, a pressure like a cheetah
chose her ribcage as a place to rest.
So, yes, these days I notice breath
the way you’d notice a bouquet
on your scarred kitchen table, gathered
bursts so bright at first it’s easy to forget
they’ve been clipped from their roots,
their fading not even all that slow.
Mother’s Day, I watched as two teenage girls
sung a hip hop love song to a masked and gloved
woman on her porch. They stayed on the walk
and I on my side of the street,
but when their song ended, the mom, or aunt
or favorite neighbor, crossed the divide,
took those girls in her arms, deciding
the feel of their heat and heartbeats and sweat
was worth daring the beast for once.
Every day, we’re made to weigh it like that,
sucking in our breath, letting it out
against paper or cloth,
noting its warmth as we do.

~ Notice Breath by Ona Gritz ~

*

March 21

First day of spring,
beneath the residue of last year’s leaves
the ghosts of November plants are stirring
their colorless first shoots
quickening into life.

Not everything that dies returns again:
the pansies, catchfly, marigolds
or my brother gone 50 years
and absent on this birthday
sealed in a past untouched by spring.

He lives solely in our minds
those engines that can pull time
only down a one way track
disappearing further each spring
in the rearview mirror.

To be human means to be forgotten,
the way the soil will soon forget
the new life it cradles this year:
the pansies, catchfly, marigolds
and all earth’s psalms that make
our brief lives beautiful.

~ March 21 by Michael Northen ~

*

In Times of Great Darkness

I want to do for you
what the sun does for me—
coax you to come
outside, to breathe in
the golden air.
I want to warm you
and enter you,
fill you with brilliance,
make your muscles melt,
make your mind shush.
I want to prepare for you
luminous paths
that span across deep space,
thaw any part of you
that feels frozen,
find any cracks
and slip shine into them.
I want to intensify
your shadow
so you might better know
your own shape.
I want to encourage you
to open, wider, wider,
want to teach you
to write your name
in light.

~ In Times of Great Darkness by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer ~

*

Miracle Carp Says End Is Near

Says this weather is abysmal, Lake Michigan
near freezing, or already frozen, so the human

animals skid over its surface, go low and
bend their faces narcissus-like into the mirror

glass of ice, their reflection shiny as scales,
as rainbow arpeggios. Miracle Carp says

swim like you want to outlive the Anthropocene,
says buck up chump, bank on no one’s promises.

Miracle Carp says any day now the ice caps.
Any day now the flood. Miracle Carp says dreams

of mud are prophetic. Says embrace the amphibious
more often than not. Says if you want to live, live

in the moment the way Miracle Carp lives in the body
of the water, a miracle no one finds very miraculous,

a fact that has not escaped Miracle Carp. Miracle
Carp says most miracles make fools of us all, says

Mostly we are busy looking the wrong way, making
too much noise. Miracle Carp says anxiety defines

this age but it will be known at the end as the age
of astigmatism, aptly, for all the miracles gone

completely unseen, even though they occur
right in front of our faces, right in front of our eyes,

like this one, the one about Miracle Carp, who knows,
knows better than anyone, what is about to happen.

~ Miracle Carp Says The End Is Near by Alicia Hoffman ~

*

Tending to Living Things

There must be a way
but all I know to do is throw
my white dishes rimmed with blue
orchids across a room
until all that I have is broken.

Except for one self-sufficient succulent,
I don’t know how to make anything live.
There must be a way
but I don’t know how.

I want to bury myself inside the dark. Stand inside
invented light. While the world falls apart,
my husband’s brain swells with lakes.

Pink roses that sprawl across the apartment
building’s metal fence don’t need me. I’m not
their caregiver of blossoming.

Grief does not ask me
to be pretty, does not ask me
to be a corsage pinned to a gown.
It wants me to push up from roots
that scarcely survived, enter
its plain door.

I want to push my husband in his wheelchair along our rutted
road as though Travelers Joy— Clematis vitalba
scrambling a lattice fence to flower next year.

~ Tending to Living Things by Amy Small-McKinney ~

*

Orange Pekoe

My brother offers us tea when we visit,
orange pekoe, our mother’s favorite brew,
and I’m surprised he’s held onto the old ways
for wasn’t he a dare-devil jumping from planes
loaded with his heavy gear, his night-vision goggles
and guns, a warrior and not one to set out the tea things:
a pitcher of milk, a sugar bowl, teaspoons.
And wasn’t he the soldier home from the war
who dared bring beer into the house
where our father forbade alcohol,
our two uncles, two drunks, stewed in degradation.
So I’m amused when he serves us tea,
proudly relating how he saves his squinched teabag
to make a second cup.
Here: a poem I’ve written about you.

A confused squinch
and he says,
            I didn’t think you thought about me.

Not a lot, I fail to say, but after this,
he likes me so much he sends me a sturdy fruit cake
each Christmas because I said I liked it,
once.

~ Orange Pekoe by Claire Keyes ~

*

Ona Gritz’s books include the poetry collections, Geode, a finalist for the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems, written with her husband Daniel Simpson. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Catamaran Literary Reader, The Bellevue Literary Review, Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, and elsewhere. She and Daniel served as poetry editors for Referential Magazine and co-edited More Challenges For the Delusional, a writing guide and anthology featuring prompts by Peter Murphy. Ona is also a children’s author and essayist. Her nonfiction is listed among Notables in Best American Essays and Best Life Stories in Salon.

Michael Northen is the past editor of Wordgathering, A Journal of Disability and Poetry. He is co-editor of the anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability and the disability short fiction anthology, The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked. He is a founding member of the Disability Literature Consortium. An educator for more than 40 years, Northen has taught adults with physical disabilities, women on public assistance, prisoners, and rural and inner city children.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form, a podcast on creative process. She also co-hosts Telluride’s Talking Gourds Poetry Club and is co-founder of Secret Agents of Change. She teaches poetry for mindfulness retreats, women’s retreats, scientists, hospice and more. Her poetry has appeared in O Magazine, on A Prairie Home Companion, in Rattle.com and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Her most recent collection, Hush, won the Halcyon Prize. She is often found in the kitchen baking with her teenage children. One word mantra: Adjust. https://wordwoman.com/

Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman now lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. Author of two collections, her recent poems can be found at Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Penn Review, Typishly, Radar Poetry, The Shore, and elsewhere. Find out more at: http://www.aliciamariehoffman.com

Amy Small-McKinney’s poetry has been published in numerous journals, for example, Connotation Press, Construction, American Poetry Review, The Indianapolis Review, Tiferet, Anomaly, Ilanot Review, Pedestal Magazine, and The Baltimore Review. Her poem “Birthplace” received Special Merits recognition by The Comstock Review for their 2019 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Contest. Her second full-length book of poems, Walking Toward Cranes, won the Kithara Book Prize 2016 (Glass Lyre Press). Small-McKinney’s reviews of poetry books have appeared in several journals, for example, Prairie Schooner. Her poems have also been translated into Romanian and Korean. She resides in Philadelphia where she teaches community poetry workshops and private students.

Claire Keyes is the author of two books of poetry, The Question of Rapture and What Diamonds Can Do. Her poems and reviews have appeared recently in Redheaded Stepchild, Mom Egg Review, Two Hawks Quarterly, and Persimmon Tree, among others. Her chapbook, Rising and Falling, won the Foothills Poetry Competition. Professor Emerita at Salem State University, she lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts where she conducts a monthly poetry salon.

Three Poems by Karen Mandell

A Local Habitation and a Name
       –William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This time they didn’t wait until nightfall
To start talking about her. Why did Karen put you
On the floor, the pothos said from his place of honor
On the console table where two windows
Formed right angles, providing plenty of afternoon light.
She said I was burning from too much sun, the variegated
Hoya said. Why she couldn’t put me in the northern window
I don’t know. She shoves me aside now when she walks by
Doing her this and that. Certainly she’s not spending much time
Grooming us. Look at my leaves! The Christmas cactus spoke up,
Almost too softly to hear. She was embarrassed because this summer
She hadn’t yet bloomed, though usually she never stopped
Throwing out her small red flowers, like a bride’s maid.
This summer did me in too, she said.
Always thinking she’s doing a favor by putting us out
On the hot stoop. The others didn’t want to unduly complain
about their wet feet in undrained saucers. Not while Christmas was so upset.
At least your leaves aren’t burned, plain green hoya said.
Thanks, Christmas said, for not admitting how awful I look.
The jade plant, a newcomer from California who Karen met there
and who always looked fabulous with his sturdy teardrop leaves,
Said, maybe you’ll feel better if you got your withered leaves
Cut off. Quick, with Karen’s small scissors, you won’t feel a thing.
Variegated hoya said, I haven’t wanted to say, but there’s more.
I’ve been ill a long time. So many of my darling new leaves have fallen…
Young dracaena cut in. Better not to talk about it. The others
Couldn’t fail to notice that her own innocent inner leaves,
Which should have been gently arching and striped
In tender green and white were charcoal grey. Blasted,
The others thought. Blight. They wondered how contagious
It was and pulled themselves in, as if holding their breath,
A little tighter. A succulent who never revealed his name
Glanced across the room toward the French doors.
They look so much better than us, he said, his words catching.
Karen cares more for them. Two geraniums across the room
Called out, Oh surely not. We just thrive easier, that’s all.
The succulent went on, That begonia over there with the black leaves
Has flowers peeping over her shoulders. That is a comfort.
It’s so difficult to feel both jealousy and joy swirling together
Like the chocolate and vanilla frozen yogurt Karen prefers.
Their mistress walked into the room, carrying no watering can,
No refreshing draughts of fertilizer. She didn’t question
Why a broken stem of Christmas cactus lay on the floor, 1
She just shoved it in a glass of cold water. The others
Sighed in relief. She rescued my appendage, Christmas said.
She does care. The others chimed in, course she does.
When it suits her. You know how they are, hibberty-jibberty
All over the place. A human gives us a home. But they forget.
They forget.

*

Home Shoes

Around the house I wear flipflops called Earth,
foam blasted polyurethane to mimic my foot
walking on grass or tender soil or white sand.
They’re old, grayed, with a plastic spike
Between big and next toe. Purpose driven clunkiness.
My mother would never had worn them.
Her house slippers were periwinkle blue vinyl
Closed-toe vamp, lightly padded footbed,
tucked under the bed at night, by day
their padding quiet as the fridge.
I admired their softness, their malleability
In harmony with my mother’s firmness,
Her tread determined but light.
No stomping, she’d tell me as, between books,
I roamed the house, looking for brother
Or sister to tease, shoeless and sockless,
Once stepping on a glass sliver from a cup
I’d broken. You’re a vilda chaya, she charged,
A wild animal. At the playground
I stalked around the sandbox with its concrete ledge,
A tiger, a grizzly, a monster conjured in the dark.

*

Weather Report

The day has woken up crabby,
Overcast, shedding gloom and then rain.
It suits my mood—rain always does.
Rose said to me once, you always loved the rain.
It was true, but I didn’t think she knew that about me.
Sometimes you don’t think your mother notices you,
Busy as she is with mopping floors, clothes shopping
For us all, wiping down counters, bleaching the laundry.
When her sisters call, they do most of the talking,
But they rely on Rose’s summing up, acquiescent
Murmuring, quick distinctions between right and wrong.
I said, she said, they said, such a nebbish and a gonif who thinks…
They went on with their stories. Usually Rose didn’t have one.
When I came home from school she said, there’s graham crackers
But don’t fill up on them. She never said
You won’t believe what happened to me today at the A&P…
When it rains I sit on the living room couch, careful
Not to spill crumbs or milk on its protective plastic shroud
And look out the picture window at my mother’s hollyhocks
and four o’clocks leaning against the foundation
and staring brazenly at passers-by. Rain doesn’t faze them.
They toss their heads like marriageable maidens in Victorian novels.
Rain comes down harder; the sky grimaces like King Lear.
Blow winds and crack your cheeks. rage! blow!
I wish for thunder and lightning. I bite my apple
(the seeds tucked into my palm), my book spread open on my stomach.
Electricity tickles the air inside and I brace for the show.

*

Karen Mandell has taught writing at the high school and college levels and literature at community senior centers. Her short story Goddess of Mercy is forthcoming from Notre Dame Review. She’s written Clicking, interconnected short stories, and Rose Has a New Walker, a book of poetry.

Two Poems by Laura Grace Weldon

Falling From the Hay Wagon

I stand on square bales piled 10 feet high,
pushing them to the edge for others to stack
as July sun shoves between barn boards
in hot dust-ridden stripes.
All of us weary, chaff stuck to sweat
after a long day of haying
in heat dry as the cracked creek bed.
A Benadryl haze makes my limbs
feel like pudding, so wobbly I’m sillier
than usual as I wade to the edge,
still chortling as I trip, tip over,
fall to the barn’s dirt floor,
landing hard between wagon and post,
jeans somehow intact
against a pitchfork’s rusty tines.
I’m jolted into silence
until I find I’m fine,
me, the worrier
who never sees what’s coming.
My family leans over me, aghast
while I lie in the dust laughing
at all the good fortune we have sown.

*

Uneven Ground

He wants to fill in the pasture’s low spots.
I say no, no, no
these are magic spaces.
When winter comes they ice overnight
to crunch like candy under toddler boots.
Each spring, puddles leap into being,
just deep enough to wriggle with tadpoles.
Drying into mud, they entice butterflies
to drink salts in a crowded aerial whiffle.
Why even anything out?
These depressions of ours
hold so much.

*

Laura Grace Weldon is the author of the poetry collections Blackbird and Tending, as well as a handbook of alternative education titled Free Range Learning. She was named Ohio Poet of the Year for 2019. Her background includes teaching nonviolence workshops, writing collaborative poetry with nursing home residents, and facilitating support groups for abuse survivors. She works as a book editor, teaches community writing classes, and lives on a small farm. Connect with her at lauragraceweldon.com.

Impressions by Marilee Pritchard

Impressions

A woman dividing her thighs, pushing with all her power
the comfort of arms, first burst of light.

Scent of dill wafting through a yard,
the tickle of a blade of tall grass,
a place I visit, my mother calls home.

Pumping water from a spigot in the park,
licking raindrops off the patio door.

Buck teeth, raisins for tits,
the penance of scrubbing with oatmeal soap.

The clarity of my harpsichord on a humid day
articulating the counterpoint dancing through a fugue.

The rough of your beard scraping
the gentle of my back.

Madame Butterfly’s soaring soprano
never making you wait..

A Door County sunset
eclipsing Gil’s Rock Harbor.

Life….dots….points
sloping through a trajectory,
color pops—hurling splats of paint across dull of white.
Georges Seurat
a stroll in the park.

*

Marilee Pritchard has lived in the Chicago area all her life.
She has dual degrees in English and Nursing and worked a boring government job by day, so she could write poetry at night. Currently, she has 2 poems coming out in After Hours this summer.

Coda by Mac Campbell

Coda

In the morning the woman folds down
the man’s collar and watches him
walk out the door. The door clicks
shut. The body gets locked into the bed.
The bed is the key. The bed smells like the man
but the man is gone. The upstairs neighbor
takes a shower. Dirty water follows
the line in the wall. The mirror follows
the line of the body. The mirror hangs
next to the bed. The woman hangs
a sheet over the mirror. She wants out
of this body, the body the man touched,
the body the man no longer wants to touch.

*

Mac Campbell received her MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she was Poetry Editor for The Greensboro Review. Her recent work appears in Cimarron Review and Red Rock Review. She lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Plein Air by Cathleen Cohen

Plein Air

I hover in the folds,
uncap paints, brush
swirls of membranous time.

Losses get caught
in the net, hard little seeds.

Last month four of my loved ones died.
Few want to hear
so I stand at corners and paint.

People don’t mind
painters at easels, almost
part of the landscape ourselves.
Shadows sweep across lawns.

A man in a red mask
approaches with his son, also masked.
They stand at safe distance and don’t

ask questions.
Soon they move off, bumping shoulders.

I’m not spying, really,
just sketching with brushstrokes and line,
just trying to piece the landscape together.

*

Previously appeared in Cagibi

*

Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. A painter and teacher, she founded the We the Poets program at ArtWell, an arts education non-profit in Philadelphia (www.theartwell.org). Her poems appear in Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, 6ix, North of Oxford, Passager, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review, Rogue Agent, Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press, 2017) and Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press, forthcoming 2021). She received the Interfaith Relations Award from the Montgomery County PA Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Award from National Association of Poetry Therapy. Her artwork is on view at Cerulean Arts Gallery (www.ceruleanarts.com).

Love Poem by Kip Knott

Love Poem

The paper heart that I’ve carried in my chest
has finally caught fire. It’s burned for six nights
now. There’s no snuffing the white flames
that flicker up my throat. Arteries and veins cauterize,
bones sizzle, a network of fuses feeding one
explosion. My mind glows, a new star hot enough
to fuse atoms. These words are its radiation.

*

Kip Knott’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, La Piccioletta Barca, Still: The Journal, and trampset. In addition, he is a regular monthly contributor to Versification. His debut book of poetry, Tragedy, Ecstasy, Doom, and so on, is currently available from Kelsay Books. His second full-length collection of poetry, Clean Coal Burn, is due in 2021, also from Kelsay Books. More of his work can be accessed at kipknott.com.

Five Poems by Amy Small-McKinney

Again

I can’t stop thinking that/

I will never swim again
I have unlearned the strokes
that keep my head above water
   you held me above the wave
while you sunk below     knew
I was afraid that I am afraid
of everything      out there

I can’t stop thinking that/

the sycamore you loved
by our window will
smack into the glass that protects
me now that you are gone      that I am
a gold-yellow leaf      a leaf       falling
into the dumpster below      sinking into
guilt and confusion

I can’t stop thinking that/

I will wake tomorrow       not a leaf
but a bear      a bear
wandering into
the wrong world      searching
for a stream
   I crouch over my cub
hold her     she will not drown

NOTE: I can’t stop thinking that/ by Sarah Vap, from “Winter” (Noemi Press, 2019) PRESS

*

Tending to Living Things

There must be a way
but all I know to do is throw
my white dishes rimmed with blue
orchids across a room
until all that I have is broken.

Except for one self-sufficient succulent,
I don’t know how to make anything live.
There must be a way
but I don’t know how.

I want to bury myself inside the dark. Stand inside
invented light. While the world falls apart,
my husband’s brain swells with lakes.

Pink roses that sprawl across the apartment
building’s metal fence don’t need me. I’m not
their caregiver of blossoming.

Grief does not ask me
to be pretty, does not ask me
to be a corsage pinned to a gown.
It wants me to push up from roots
that scarcely survived, enter
its plain door.

I want to push my husband in his wheelchair along our rutted
road as though Travelers Joy— Clematis vitalba
scrambling a lattice fence to flower next year.

*

Breath

Music on the vintage radio
as falling leaves stopped in mid-air.
Air reveals itself for the first time
as a body or a car leaving a driveway.
If this doesn’t make sense look
out the window as air waits for snow.
Air knows what is worth waiting for
and what is not.
I want to be air
wait with brilliant patience unafraid.
I know it as air knows snow.
As a body knows air when it cannot catch its breath.
If able, every day we breathe in at least sixteen kilograms
of it. This is not wisdom.
This is eating boiled eggs buttered toast
food reassuring as snow.
Animals need to eat, true?
Need to breathe the oxygen in air.
Don’t conflate air with oxygen. That’s a mistake.
We also breathe in its poisons—too much kills.
That is the problem with air
and love. I don’t want to live
without either. I mean
it is impossible.
What is beautiful about air
is how it helps to move water from vapor to ice
to sublime again. Holds my love as he tries
to transfer from couch to table and back to couch. Knows
he will be ice and vapor. This is what we all become.

*

Alone

I see him on the red couch
waiting for me.

Unruly papers keep falling
to the floor.

No floral aroma here; only
the odor of goodbye.

*

During The Pandemic You Are Dying At Home

Sparrows nibble at your blanket
dive in and out of the eaves of your mouth.

Wings rimmed with tatting.
Tattooed beaks add color to an otherwise

bland room. The hard-working birds
will not speak to me yet.

This is not the life I planned.
Now the sky closes its doors and trees shrink

into fetal positions. Your body shrinks.
You forget where you are where

you are going. Your hospital bed tries to explain:
You don’t belong anymore.

This is not the life we planned.
We are breezeless our window won’t open.

I wait with the sparrows for a sign
to kiss your confused mouth goodbye.

You say:
   “I’m moving three across three down.”
   “What if my pee is poison?”
   “Get me my shoes.”

*

Amy Small-McKinney’s poetry has been published in numerous journals, for example, Connotation Press, Construction, American Poetry Review, The Indianapolis Review, Tiferet, Anomaly, Ilanot Review, Pedestal Magazine, and is forthcoming in Baltimore Review. Her poem “Birthplace” received Special Merits recognition by The Comstock Review for their 2019 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Contest. Her second full-length book of poems, Walking Toward Cranes, won the Kithara Book Prize 2016 (Glass Lyre Press). Small-McKinney’s reviews of poetry books have appeared in several journals, for example, Prairie Schooner. Her poems have also been translated into Romanian and Korean. She resides in Philadelphia where she teaches community poetry workshops and private students.