Cultivating Tulips by Claudia M. Reder

Cultivating Tulips

In the house I’ve never lived in,
I warm my hands in the deep kitchen sink.

From my apartment window
I wrestle a vivid color or scent
from this house I’ve never lived in
where the colors of tulips match the paint
of the walls — and an aroma of sticky buns
for Sunday breakfasts.

One day I may say aloud, this is where
I raised the children I never had,
with a husband who never yelled.
White dogwood peeks into the second story windows.
Red and orange tulips border the front door.

I study tulip manuals,
varieties of early and late bloomers,
press their tall hardy stems. I plant
Rainbow Parrot tulips and Queen of Night tulips,
Mixed Triumphs and Red Oxfords
for the walkway, backyard, and window boxes.

I wish I could have given my daughter
a home where colors bloomed.
I would scatter the frost resistant bulbs in Fall,
knowing we would be around in spring
to see them root and blossom,
and in the afternoons catch
that still moment when the petals
full and bright fold into evening.

*

Claudia M. Reder is the author of How to Disappear, a poetic memoir, (Blue Light Press, 2019). Uncertain Earth (Finishing Line Press), and My Father & Miro (Bright Hill Press). How to Disappear was awarded first prize in the Pinnacle and Feathered Quill awards. She was awarded the Charlotte Newberger Poetry Prize from Lilith Magazine, and two literary fellowships from the Pennsylvania Arts Council. She recently retired from teaching at California State University at Channel Islands. For many years she has been a poet/storyteller in the Schools. Publications include Alaska Quarterly Review, Nimrod, and Healing Muse.

Two Poems by Jeffrey Thompson

Palettes

The bird is
the colors of the bird
until it lands.
The shapes of the colors,
unfolding,
are the birds
as they rise.
A wire divides
the blue into two
pennants, licked
by flames.

*

Little Missouri

Below the beaver dam
instead of a bighorn
you see a horse
skeleton, unraveled by scavengers
and the current. You rise
from the silt into the rain and wind
and head back to the car.
You feel the muddy water
flow through your rib cage.
Stand tall.

*

Jeffrey Thompson was raised in Fargo, North Dakota, and educated at the University of Iowa, where he studied English and philosophy, and Cornell Law School. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where he practices public interest law. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including North Dakota Quarterly, The Main Street Rag, Passengers, The Tusculum Review, FERAL, On the Seawall, Burningword Literary Journal, and Maudlin House. His hobbies include reading, hiking, photography, and doom-scrolling on Twitter.

Only Now by Laura Ann Reed

Only Now
           —after Jim Moore

But I’m not ready, my father says,
           to be taken off the playing field—

and first I bring him shells that hold
           the sea. Then river stones. Then I

bring his favorite recordings
           of Paul Robeson singing spirituals

and lullabies. These make him cry.
           And it’s only now, two decades

later, that I see my error: All he needed
           was for me to be with him. To step

closer to his bedside. To allow into my heart
           what flooded his—all that loneliness.

*

Laura Ann Reed holds a dual undergraduate degree in French/Comparative Literature from The University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently completed master’s degree programs in the Performing Arts and Clinical Psychology—prior to working as a leadership development trainer at the San Francisco headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. She and her husband currently reside in western Washington. Her work has been anthologized in How To Love the World, and is forthcoming in the SMEOP anthology: HOT, and in the anthology, The Wonder of Small Things. Her poems have appeared in Swimm and The Ekphrastic Review, among other journals.

Two Poems by Elizabeth Loudon

There Are Drafts You Cannot Dodge

Until I met him I’d never heard of the
thousand yard stare, I was that young,
that new to the country. He was just
a guy with a backpack and a slick of hair,
quick to grudges, a guy who said he had secrets
but we couldn’t see them. He came to our parties
in worn wooden houses high above rivers,
woods thick behind us, and held his own
right through the night, he slipped with us
naked into moonshine water and riffed
as good as the best. I liked his body enough,
the pale underside of his dolphin flanks,
but his feet were a worry, heavy and splayed
as if each step was a stamp, reluctant to dance.
Not that it mattered in those days, when there
was time to make terrible mistakes, and we
were high by Friday and would laugh at pretty
much anything. He said he was tracked and traced
and once punched a man for raising a camera
to his face and then threw the camera in the lake.
That’s how they get you, he said, and no,
you’re not to ask why. It wasn’t till later when
I first tasted cold, the American cold that braces
and burns nose and fingers and eyes, that I saw
that the whispers of threats and the thin-rolled
joints were only for me, the whole show was all
just for me, I was pinned like a butterfly at the
end of a thousand yard stare, my eyes peering
out from the edge of a deep winter quilt,
my eyes which were open, and blue.

*

The Harvest Queen

What held you all summer in thrall
that you never saw pollen blow past,
the garden fruit swollen to blousy flesh,
birds unravelled in the wind of migration?
Why did you wait till night
had dragged the heart out of August
before making the first rough cut?
Now you must work with a scythe
and a sack, a rag of blue to the west,
nobody to touch your sleeping hand
on the pillow. Now you’re old
the way farmers grow old: indefatigable,
then defeated. Frost blackens
the sweet-corn ears, weeds sprout higher
than wheat, everything bent with growth.
You kneel in the spring-dug furrows,
digging through roots along the fence-line.
Cold smacks your ears. I’m telling you
what all women know, that when you walk
out of hell you must never look back.
Don’t turn for whatever might follow you
yet, there’s no daughter tethered
to your belt, only this song from
a harvest queen on the high-grained path,
cradling an armful of unspent gold.

*

Author’s Note:

When I finally completed my debut novel, I felt freed up to return at last to poetry. The Harvest Queen was the first poem I wrote after many years of prose, and There Are Drafts You Cannot Dodge is the most recent. I am thrilled that they will appear together, and hope that they show some of the ways in which I’m seeking greater courage and a stronger voice through poetry.

*

Elizabeth Loudon’s fiction and memoir have appeared in the Gettysburg Review, INTRO, Denver Quarterly, and North American Review, and her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in the South Florida Poetry Journal, Lily Poetry Review, Blue Mountain Review, and Trampset. Her debut novel, A Stranger in Baghdad, will be published in spring 2023 by Hoopoe Fiction.

She has an MA in English from Cambridge University and an MFA in Fiction from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and taught English at Amherst, Smith, and Williams Colleges. She then worked for many years as a campaign strategist and writer for NGOs and Universities. She now divides her time between London and Gloucestershire in the UK.

First Letter Home From Camp by Miriam Manglani

First Letter Home From Camp

After two long weeks,
his first letter finally arrives.

I wrap my hands around it.
Paper he touched
with his tiny warm hands.
Envelop he sealed shut.

Anticipation mocks as I tear it open
to read a note
in his 9-year-old attempt at handwriting.
Just one sentence.
“I must tell you my fan broke.”

*

Miriam Manglani lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband and three children. She works full-time as a Sr. Technical Training Manager. Her poems have been been published in various magazines and journals including Rushing Thru the Dark, Cerasus Magazine, Sparks of Calliope, Canyon Voices, and the Paterson Review. Most recently, her poetry chapbook “Ordinary Wonders” was published by Prolific Press.

Two Poems by Jane C. Miller

In the Back Seat on I-70 when God Comes to Me at 12

Who’s to say it isn’t so, fog rising
off the Susquehanna at dawn, misting
the mountains; or maybe it’s

mountain fog falling into the river
as sun notches the peaks of the Alleghenies

and climbs down through dense firs,
waking what nests in them and me—

earth’s silent rotation, singing
even now across the span

of valleys, dim tunnels, past
sheer cliffs and rockfall, down

into the hard plains of Ohio
toward rain, corn husks shaking
dry their hair in afternoon light.

*

November

I walk past field stubble, stalks
black and broken, corn cobs chewed

down to rust; in the swamp, dead
eucalyptus where cormorants hunch.

This wetland, so cold and forbidding
cradles what lives: frog hearts

slow in their silted sleeping, mud
turtles prone on a bog of leaves.

My body ages into mystery. I face
dread, a snake skin in the grass. Molting

has shed its muscled menace,
head-to-tail a fogged diamond

pattern, delicate as church light.
An empty leash, I drag it home.

*

Jane C. Miller’s poetry has appeared in Kestrel, Apple Valley Review and Summerset Review, among others. A two-time recipient of a DDOA fellowship, Miller is co-author of the poetry collection, Walking the Sunken Boards (Pond Road Press, 2019) and an editor of the online poetry journal, ൪uartet (www.quartetjournal.com).

Songs for My Mother by Lynn Finger

Songs for My Mother

1
Every death is
its own fingerprint,
nobody’s is the same:

in a dark house,
in a ward, in the sky,
in the waves, no one
leaves in the same way.

2
As you sleep,
nothing speaks,
webs of dawn gather,
cindered ash motes,
the glitter as sun
streams through
the glass of your window.

3
The oaks outside stand
crooked. I count their leaves.
I wonder why you
don’t open your eyes.
We don’t know if you
will want to see anything
again.

4
I walk in the Dante Forest
not because I want to.
It has a slight path
crossed by unsure sunlight,
where a hundred senilities
cast shadow.

5
My mother was a mermaid,
your story begins,
and my father a bear.
It’s not written down,
It has to have been sung to you,
when young.
You’ll know, if the words
vibrate like a bee
in your hair,
you’ll know.

6
In the dark corner,
the oxygen machine
roars, its own sea,
and your clock stops at 10:35.
I go home to sleep.
The shades are slant against
the evening, and that night
they call,
you are gone.

7
How to stop time.
It’s pouring honey
over the stars to hold them
still, but they continue,
fade.

8
The oak branches creak
in the night wind,
their leaves open up,
eyelashes of the sky.

*

Lynn Finger’s writings have appeared in 8Poems, Perhappened, Book of Matches, Fairy Piece, Drunk Monkeys, and Anti-Heroin Chic. Lynn also had a poetry chapbook released this year, “The Truth of Blue Horses,” published by Alien Buddha Press. She was nominated for the 2021 Best of the Net Anthology. Lynn edits Harpy Hybrid Review and works with a group that mentors writers in prison. Her Twitter is @sweetfirefly2.

Trip by Ellen Rowland

Trip

A stupid fall, you will say.
Nothing daring or graceful, just a trip
on something insignificant and small while having
successfully avoided the lip of a flat stone
or a protruding root on this same
path for months now. You will scan
your body, noticing where the heat rises
to throb grated skin, swelling shin,
throbbing elbow. You will blow
dirt and grit from the palms of
the hands that braced you, the cool air
of your breath soothing the sting.

You will not hop back up as you once could
but sit or lay with your vulnerability,
this further proof of impermanence
and give thanks, deep gratitude
as you circle wrists, ankles, neck,
that most of you is still in good working order.

On the way home, you will conjure
the names of each bone and tendon spared
with no understanding of when or how
you acquired the knowledge.

*

Ellen Rowland is the author of two collections of haiku/senryu, Light, Come Gather Me and Blue Seasons, as well as the book Everything I Thought I Knew, essays on living, learning and parenting outside the status quo. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals and in several poetry anthologies, most recently The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy edited by James Crews. Her debut collection of full-length poems is forthcoming from Fernwood Press in spring, 2023. She lives off the grid with her family on an island in Greece.

Following Peaches by Betsy Mars

Following Peaches
for my father

one step at a time, a man/following peaches, only one hand on the rail
-Ted Kooser, Under a Forty-Watt Bulb

That last morning in hospice
you requested fresh peaches
but they could only find canned.
You didn’t mind,
ate slowly, syrup running down your chin.

My mind drifted back decades
to the pool, its filter clogged with fuzz,
and maybe yours did, too:

we children dove for pennies,
got bored, searched the yard
for something more.

Who could find fault with children
diving for peaches on a summer morning
when the boughs were heavy
with fruit and nectar?

You scolded us while you cleaned and skimmed,
but I knew you really didn’t mind.

*

Betsy Mars is a prize-winning poet, a photographer, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. She is an assistant editor at Gyroscope Review. Poetry publications include Rise Up Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Sky Island, and Minyan. She is a Best of the Net and Pushcart Prize nominee. Betsy’s photos have been featured in RATTLE’s Ekphrastic Challenge, Spank the Carp, Praxis, and Redheaded Stepchild. She is the author of Alinea and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz.

Missing by Shei Sanchez

Missing

I lost my dog & within a few days, I gained more friendships.
Some were resurrected. Others bloomed like algae.
An irregular kind of week.

But I was too engulfed in Facebook & Petfinder to notice.
Scrolling past Dixie Chic the pitbull, Lady Featherington the Newfoundland mix.
Bracing to find my canine re-christened as Wedgington or Pontus.

I still call him Kitchen Companion, Soccer, Human Whisperer.
His nose surfing the floor for food detritus.
The white fur of his legs like the pulled up socks of a goalkeeper.
The largesse of his heart.

I post my lost dog & within hours, his face was found everywhere.
Two-dimensional pixels of Red, Green, Blue.
But his presence pointed to nowhere
& everywhere else faded with the amber of the dying day.

My dog lost his way & in one morning, his home got larger.
More trees & rocks to sleep under.
Enough January snow & a swollen river to drink.
Plenty of sky to feel unalone.

But the storm’s white blankets played with his senses,
& this winter gambled with my sensibility.

I lost my dog & in one day, I lost me.
An irregular life.
But keep calling him, I say
– even after the snow’s been swallowed by the sun.

*

Shei Sanchez’s recent work can be found in Woodhall Press’s anthology Nonwhite and Woman, Still: The Journal, One by Jacar Press, and Women of Appalachia Project’s Women Speak, Volume 7. She lives by the Hocking River with her partner and their bouncy herd of goats.