Three Poems by Sharon Pretti

At Redwood Creek

A glimpse of Coho is what I want,
some sign of slipping in against the odds,

their numbers dwindling each year.
Sword fern, sun-ray, not the kind of day

to contemplate loss, despite what I read
by the Buddhist monks: ready yourself:

everything, everyone. The monks would
like my brother’s latest letter—

breath, walk, soak it all in, he says,
and I want to obey. For weeks, we’ve used

a new language: fighter, positive, brave,
the words like clouds touching

then breaking apart. This crunch of root
and rock is a type of music, a release,

my brother would say, from imagining
him gone, not gone, gone.

Three miles in, the trail he recommended—
scrub jays, moss, the signs never saying

there’s more than one way to be lost.
If I’m lucky, the salmon will come,

the first gleam, the frenzy. Breath, walk,
soak it all in. He must have meant breathe,

he must have meant stay, so much
daylight left in the leaves.

*

Treasure Island

We cross a four-lane bridge to reach it
and over our shoulders we look back,

the bay and its whitecaps,
the city where we were born.

Skyscraper, plate-glass, wild, my brother says
how everything’s changed.

Here: the sound of small breakers,
an Avenue of the Palms,
a harbor.

A second scan showed his tumor shrinking,
millimeters, the time it takes sea glass to smooth.

My brother’s birthday—
I make the first toast,
names of boats bobbing nearby.

Serenity, Onward, Even Keeled
as though we could set course toward a different life.

There is sky in his voice when he says every good day.
I don’t count them,
I don’t listen for when he’ll laugh next.

Here: iced tea, sweet potato fries, and farther out
another sail opening.

*

Head-On

A woman’s pried from the driver’s seat,
southbound on a nearby bridge,
a surge of siren air. Moments before,

she might have seen a shiver of sails
or a gull’s metallic wing, the ferry’s
rolling wake, but she’s not the one

I dwell on. It’s him, the driver
who drifted to dream and veered,
the one the news won’t name.

He sees her when his eyes close,
her past-tense legs, fingers bent
to the knob of her motorized chair.

It’s him I think of when my buckle
clicks, belt sashed across my breast
and I shift, smooth as moon,

into the homebound lane. I’m sure
he’d snatch those seconds back,
the coastline view, the bird-stained rock,

his hands like talons braced to the wheel.
We’re always blinking towards our fate,
the window down, our day-tangled hair.

We’re him when we steer, our bodies
bearing that one wrong moment.
His sentence now: the one spared.

*

Sharon Pretti lives in San Francisco, California. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Spillway, Calyx, JAMA, Jet Fuel Review and the Schuylkill Valley Journal. She is also an award-winning haiku poet and a frequent contributor to haiku journals including Modern Haiku and Frogpond. She works as a medical social worker at a large county hospital where she also leads poetry groups for seniors and disabled adults.

Three Poems by Rose Oliver

An Inventory of My Mother’s Pocket

Her apron hangs on the kitchen door,
slack as a snake skin emptied of its occupant.

She is gone.
Gone to the Home
That isn’t a home.
The memory morgue.

The apron pocket gapes,
a hungry mouth.

In it I find:

3 pills she forgot to take,
Cookie crumbs,
A comb entangled with grey gossamer strands,
A brown newspaper clipping of my dad’s obituary,
A broken safety pin that failed its mission,
Her house key that opens the door
She will never enter again.

I fold the apron carefully and place it
in the cardboard box marked
Save.

*

Impermanence

Death dwells in the seed I plant.

Autumn leaves, dandelion’s ghostly globes,
so much seeks exit as it enters.

The pink sunset clouds have already vanished
and where is the rainbow now?
Magnolia blossoms become brown bowls of rot.

Anchor butterfly wings,
grasp a rose,
What remains:
Broken wings
Crushed petals
A fist full of thorns.

*

Cinderella

If the shoe fits
must you wear it?
Lucky Cinderella!
Glass slippers and
A Prince!

Cinderella’s daughters buy
Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo shoes
that break the bank
and the Achilles’ tendon.

Women’s feet are best bound,
Amputated, mutilated,
so the shoe fits.

Oh no!
Prince Charming left Cinderella!
and Cinderella is left
with hundreds of high heels
and a stiletto
lodged in her heart.

*

Rose Oliver is a retired psychiatric nurse and lives in Western MA. She is a frequent participant in the spoken word poetry project WordXWord. Her works have appeared in online and print journals.

The Color of Music by William A. Greenfield

The Color of Music

I’m sitting in a room with three friends;
there’s some blood mixed in,
pretty good stereo, decent speakers.

I don’t know the average friend count
for people my age, my chemistry,
but at last count I had three.

Each one of us has music in their
head, the best music they can think of,
segues, riffs, crescendos.

I think there should be a friend manual
with schematics, triangle warning signs
and a chapter on trouble shooting.

Listening to the music in their head,
muting Anderson’s trilling flute to make
room for a friend’s Georgia fiddle.

We each ambled down some lover’s lane
during the British invasion. Johnny
found Lennon. Bobby found Garcia.

The manual would caution that friends are not
mirror images; they are like cans
of Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace.

Their lot numbers don’t match, so they listen
to the same tune, but in different hues,
basking in a kaleidoscope of melodies.

*

William A. Greenfield is a youth advocate worker in upstate New York. His chapbook, “Momma’s Boy Gone Bad”, was published in February 2017 (Finishing Line Press). His 2nd chapbook, “I Should have Asked the Blind Girl to Dance” was published in June 2019 (Flutter Press). His full-length collection, “The Circadian Fallacy” was published this year (Kelsay Books).

Turning by Mary Lou Buschi

Turning

There is room enough for two
in your bed but I stay off to the side

wanting to pull just one corner
of one blanket over myself.

Instead I reach my arms around you,
pull the blankets in tight,

curled you up as if I was meant to send
you somewhere dangerous.

By habit, or maybe will,
you try to cover my arms

as if the child you remember
is still here.

*

Mary Lou Buschi’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Laurel Review, The Chestnut Review. Radar, Midway Journal, among others. Mary Lou has 3 chapbooks and 2 full-length collections. Paddock, her 2nd collection will be out March 2021 through Lily Poetry Review.

Three Poems by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Setting

In every conversation
there is a table made of listening.
Sometimes the tables are beautiful,
solid, clean—the kind
that can support anything
you put on them.
Sometimes, they’re like
the tv dinner trays
of my childhood—
a little rickety, but they’ll do
if what’s put on them is light.
Sometimes they’re so cluttered
that whatever’s placed on their surface
is almost immediately lost.
Let tonight’s table have a small vase of flowers
and a candle perhaps, nothing else.
May it be small enough we might
see each other’s eyes, might notice
every nuance of breath. Whomever
I am most nervous to invite,
may I invite them. And though
the tea is just a metaphor,
may I offer. May they accept.

*

Tonight Is a Torn Map

Tonight is a torn map
and the woman
is a would-be voyager.
Once, she believed
there was a path.
Now, she believes
there are many.
Sitting still
beside the river,
she notices
the urge to rise,
notices when
the urge has passed.
Notices it rise again.
Being still
is one of the hardest
paths of all.
All around her
the world is moving—
gurgling, waving,
weaving, crawling,
climbing, winging, falling,
eroding. And in her,
more movement
than she dares to admit—
not just mudslides,
tectonic shifts—
every day the landscapes
change. Every day
the inner map she drew
looks less like what’s
really there.
It was no mistake
when it ripped.

*

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.

*

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/

Two Poems by Delvon T. Mattingly

Miscue

You say one thing
and I say another;
we click and swing
like that of Newton’s cradle,
each clank of steel
sending us into a trance
of loveless complacency.

*

Misuse

Love is like a substance,
misused and freely
seeping through our veins;
and I’m not strong enough
to resist injecting anything
to dilute its influence.

*

Delvon T. Mattingly, who also goes by D.T. Mattingly, is a writer from Louisville, Kentucky and a PhD candidate in epidemiology at the University of Michigan. He currently lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Learn more about his work at http://delvonmattingly.com/.

5 Poems by Claire Keyes

A Day at the Beach

In the hot summers of childhood
all we wanted was to swim at the beach,
so we took ourselves, my kid brother and me,
on the “T” to South Boston. In a few months,
my twelfth birthday, my brother just eight.
Was the beach crowded? The water dirty?
Did we care?

We knew nothing about sewage outfall pipes
just joy as the two of us joined the crowd of adults
and kids paddling in the swell and crash of waves.
It was time to shriek, to jump, to paddle
through soft, round turds floating
because they’d exited the pipe
along with shreds of tissue.

We were nothing if not naïve
which saved the day at Carson Beach.
Easy enough to flick the turds away. Away!
What’s the use of complaining the water’s dirty,
our day wrecked? Better this, I thought,
than popping tar bubbles on the street.

Now I live along the same ocean
where a dog slithers into the water
to fetch a yellow tennis ball his mistress has thrown.
He will return to her whatever she throws.
It’s a matter of devotion.

At Waterside Cemetery, I yank crabgrass
spreading onto my husband’s grave and fling it away,
then tuck in some alyssum from the garden at home,
a fragrance he loved.

*

One Full Bath

In a family where ten of us shared one full bath,
I learned that cleanliness is not next to godliness.

That the sight of my brother in his boxers
emerging from his bedroom was enriching

as was his distress at seeing me capture the bathroom.
That nobody savors scouring the bathtub.

That sisters with long hair can be a real bitch.
That the water heater held finite hot water

and that a tepid bath just doesn’t do it.
That you can ignore your mother’s wrath:

what are you doing in there? —only so long.
That one full bath was a big deal for my mother.

That she grew up in a house with no bath:
a childhood better left unspoken.

Better yet, she had so much class
she never told us how good we had it.

*

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.

*

Don’t Tell

I can’t remember anything my mother said except don’t tell the priest
that Saturday after the abduction, the stripping and prodding.

I am headed to Confession to be forgiven my sin. Hadn’t I allowed the man
to take me down behind the garage. Don’t tell anyone, he said.

Soon I would confess my impurity and be absolved, but
my mother’s words follow me down the street and up the hill

to the church, soft and persistent as the pure steps of the Blessed Virgin.
My mother could hardly say: keep quiet to protect our family from gossip.

Don’t tell the priest is what she said, and I understood: Keep yourself
to yourself. I’m entering 8th grade, on the verge. I know nothing about sex.

Nothing about where babies came from. Yet in the playground
we would chant and poke each other’s belly buttons

and say Bore a hole/Bore a hole/ right through the Sugar Bowl
Out comes Y—–O—–U.

We didn’t know what we were saying.
Yet somehow we did.

*

Something Amusing

To be my mother-in-law in the nursing home
picking at her fingers until they bleed.
To find my bleeding fingers more fascinating
than my son and his wife come to visit.
To give him the satisfaction of laughing
at his dumb story. Nope.
To grin is the most I will grant him and her
standing next to him as if her claim is greater.
His pants fit like a glove, my son says
to me. To me? He says something
about a man with five penises,
pants and gloves fitting.
To watch his lips move.
To see him shape words with his tongue and his teeth.
To demand that my son tell me something
amusing while I sit here.
To be dressed nicely. My feet in pumps.
My white gloves in my purse.
To expect to go out to lunch with my son
and he brings some woman I don’t know.
To sit in the corridor of a nursing home waiting.
To believe I’ve been pushed here then left
to gather dust. To gather dust.

*

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.

Summers at Ocean Beach by Melissa Kelly

Summers at Ocean Beach

We’d take the ferry back and forth
Our families then would meet
Off the sandy shores of Fire Island
A white house on Ocean Beach

No TV sets to pass the time
No iPhones back then to take
We leave work and school behind
One month for summer break

A chess board game at the table
We’d play cards and drink iced tea
Walk the boardwalk into town
Or lay out on the beach

Some nights around the fireplace
After dinner making s’mores
We take turns telling ghost stories
Each one scarier than before

A ferry ride away we take
And plan and ride and meet
One month in the summer
On Fire Island in Ocean Beach

Melissa Kelly is a poet and Short Story writer from Long Island, NY. You can see some of her work in WestWard Quarterly Magazine, Plum Tree Tavern, Soft Cartel, Amethyst Review, Hedge Apple and Anti-Heroin Chic.

Two Poems by Julia Caroline Knowlton

Liberté

A canvas wet with paint,
     a bow singing strings.

Every time our bodies join
     in union, sky away.

Ocean waves silver,
     say what they don’t say.

 

Memorial Service

End of summer, Michigan. Silver ash flight,
going home to nothing in his favorite lake.

A final wave goodbye caught in wind and light,
then into water down. I touched my own end,

dry & chalky. It was my father, leaving time
forever, a vanishing act. No holy notions,

just bone dust in memory that does not fade.
Wildflowers strewn on water while his jazz played.

 

 

Julia Caroline Knowlton is Professor of French at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, where she has taught for twenty-five years. She has a PhD in French Literature from UNC-Chapel Hill and an MFA in Poetry from Antioch University. The author of four books, she was named a Georgia Author of the Year in 2018. She is the recipient of an Academy of American Poets College Prize and a Pushcart nominee. Her work has recently appeared in literary journals such as Boston Literary Magazine and Raw Art Review. You can find her on Facebook.

Night Talks by Terri Kirby Erickson

Night Talks

When one would wake in the night, the other
followed. Then, in their bed, next to their window
that was always open, my mother and father
would talk to the sound of cars going by,
the hum of streetlights, the occasional bark
of a neighbor’s dog. They spoke of high school
dances, family vacations, raising children,
being grandparents. And their faces, soft
with age and sleep, were hidden in the dark,
so they could speak at last of their lost son,
without any need to shield each other from
that pain. It must have been a relief to unpack
the shared sadness they courageously carried,
to put it down, if only for an hour. It was like
I could hear them from my own bed
across town, as I slipped into a deeper sleep,
reassured and comforted by their beloved
familiar voices echoing among the stars.

 

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53, Fall, 2020). Her work has appeared in Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry ReviewAtlanta ReviewJAMAPoet’s MarketThe Christian CenturyThe SunThe Writer’s AlmanacValparaiso Poetry ReviewVerse Daily, and many others. Her awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, Nazim Hikmet Award, and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.