Elegy for Debbie of My Childhood by Susana Gonzales

Elegy for Debbie of My Childhood

You of the frilly floral dresses
chosen by your mother
before you were old enough
bold enough to say enough
of dresses. You of the silly smiles
and sleep overs over at my house
or yours before time took
over and grew us into women.
You of the popsicle summers
and swimming pools pulling
on rubber bathing caps pulling off
tricks off the diving board.
You I sing you nine years old.
You I praise you fearless running in rain.
You I laugh you cheerless. Who dared
to be the first to try, to climb,
to jump from. So brave the first
to enter the dark. So clever
to hide where I could not seek.

*

Susana Gonzales was raised in the Air Force and has grown to see the world through multiple lenses. She lives in southern California with her wife Suzanne and German Shepard Kennedy. She has been published in Sheila Na Gig, Gyroscope Review, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Drunk Monkeys and As You Were: The Military Review.

Undeliverable by Agnes Vojta

Undeliverable

The mail for the residents is laid out
on the white formica table in the hallway.
The ambulatory rifle through the stack.
An aide picks out letters for the bed-bound.
A small pile remains. The aide checks the names:
hospital, vacation, hospital, deceased –
the green envelope with the foreign stamp. She tears
the corner off for her grandson, stashes it
in her pocket, drops the letter into the waste basket.
Through the torn paper, she catches
a glint of glitter and the word Merry.

*

Agnes Vojta grew up in Germany and now lives in Rolla, Missouri where she teaches physics at Missouri S&T and hikes the Ozarks. She is the author of Porous Land, The Eden of Perhaps, and A Coracle for Dreams, all published by Spartan Press. Her poems have appeared in a variety of magazines. Her website is agnesvojta.com.

Two Poems by Laura Ann Reed

Something Useful

She finds me sprawled
face-down on a chaise lounge—
head in the shade, legs in
the sun. I peer between
white vinyl slats at
a tiny black ant.

You could be doing
something useful, she says, my
mother whose mouth holds
rivers that swim with
consonants and vowels—
so many ways of saying,
You’re not the daughter I wanted.

How to explain—
what’s sacred resides in
the sensation of warmth on
the backs of my legs, that and
the way the ant carries what looks
like a crumb in its jaws, although
I can tell it’s really a city of stillness.
Also, the fact that no one but
I witness it crossing the patio tiles,
bound for a place it belongs.

*

Thief

Early spring, I slip through
           a gap in the privet hedge.

The neighbor’s apple tree quivers
           with white frills of silk, unfurling

leaves that spin in wind. My mother
           won’t hold me in her gaze the way

I stand here gaping at this
           ancient tree. Won’t rock me

like I’m cradled in rain-
           soaked winter limbs, sheltered

in July—when the thinnest
           membrane lies between bark

and my sun-dark skin. In fall, that
           profusion of small, hard fruit. Tart,

with only a faint trace of sweetness.
           I eat and eat this proof of love.

*

Laura Ann Reed’s work has been anthologized in How To Love the World, and is forthcoming in the SMEOP anthology: HOT, as well as having appeared in Loch Raven, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Swimm, The Ekphrastic Review, and Willawaw, among other journals. Laura holds a dual undergraduate degree in French/Comp Lit from UC Berkeley, and completed Master’s Degree programs in the Performing Arts, Clinical Psychology, and Organizational Development prior to working as Leadership Development Trainer at the San Francisco headquarters of the United States Environmental Protection Agency, prior to the Trump Administration. She and her husband now reside in western Washington.

Of Roots by Jennifer K. Sweeney

Of Roots

we know little. What makes them
torque into the earth’s dark
and, like rigging, anchor
hundred-year-old trees to the clouds.
Not animal as worm or mole
yet sentient how they buckle
and nudge in service, gnarl and fur
intuiting source
in all its narrow openings.
Fanned out, a stitchworks flaring at once
or a singular plunge dagger-deep,
their business is into, unfathomed.
If you have ever followed one,
foolishly loosening first, feeling
for the knuckled crank you might
cleanly tug, they won’t give up slack
your hands tunneling further down,
then soon on your knees
pulling ropes in the night.
Source, structure, storage,
ferrying gate to the River Styx,
a root governs entry to the plant body.
Four times as wide as a tree’s crown,
we tread on top of their carbon maps,
unburdened, having said too much,
hoping the earth wants us.

* 

Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of four poetry collections: Foxlogic, Fireweed (Backwaters Press/Univ. of Nebraska), Little Spells (New Issues Press), How to Live on Bread and Music, which received the James Laughlin Award, the Perugia Press Prize and a nomination for the Poets’ Prize, and Salt Memory. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, she recently won the Terrain Poetry Prize, and her poems have appeared widely in journals, including American Poetry Review, The Awl, Mid-American Review, New American Writing, Terrain, Tupelo Quarterly, and Verse Daily.

Office Visit by Ona Gritz

Office Visit

Honeycombing, the doctor says,
and for an instant, I let myself
rest in what I love about that word,
sticky textured golden noun turned verb.
But the world he’s leading us through
on the nightscape CT scan is inside you,
the two crucial islands, your lungs.
This, he tells us, is healthy tissue,
dark sky barely flecked with stars.
And this, tapping the line
of a lacy shore, scars.
I remember the first time
I made out our boy’s profile
on a cloudy screen like this,
tiny nub of thumb between
what would become his lips.
Back then, I saw myself
as standing on a precipice,
knowing that when I dropped
I would fall toward life.
But this, you and I
under the buzzing glare
of such harsh light,
it’s life too, isn’t it? I’m asking
this of both of us. Stay.
Notice the heat in our held hands.

*

Ona Gritz’s new collection of essays, Present Imperfect, is out now from Poets Wear Prada. She is also the author of Geode, a Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award finalist, and On the Whole: a Story of Mothering and Disability. Ona’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, River Teeth, The Bellevue Literary Review, Catamaran Literary Reader, and previously in One Art. Recent honors include two Notable mentions in Best American Essays, a Best Life Story in Salon, and a winning entry in The Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2020 project.

Three Poems by Erica Goss

Katsura

I’ve been drawing you since I was a child.
I still have my pictures of you, crayoned
in green and brown. I know you

from dreams, from past lives.
I tell you private things:
I live in the human world. I tend

to the living and the dead.
May I touch you? Your bark
digs a road into my palm. Gold

pollen glitters on my arms.
The grass shies away from your
roots, stretched across the soil

like a dancer’s thighs. Do you remember
the first time you danced? You twirled,
a tiny seed-helicopter headed earthward.

The journey of a lifetime: yours, to grow
in one place; mine, to wander until
I found you, alone of all trees.

*

Raw Material

As I turn my compost pile
I think of how my mother looked
at anything unfinished on my plate.
I wish that I could send food back in time,
back to 1945 when hunger broke her down.
But everything moves forward, and
we all break down eventually:
first the flash of heat, then
the slow decomposition.

*

Wildfire

Already, we talk
as if it happened
to someone else, as if

we were children again,
in a perpetual state of
bewilderment, our youth

a shield against too much
knowing. When I was twelve,
the new dark age just a dust

cloud on the horizon,
I could not grasp the meaning
in the shift of the clouds,

nor the air’s brutal tang.
Had I known, what would
I have done? Today the rain

falls, and the trees droop
like a troupe of worn-out
performers after a final show,

bowing as the director
calls their names: red maple,
yellow birch, liquidambar.

*

Erica Goss is the winner of the 2019 Zocalo Poetry Prize. Her poetry collection, Night Court, won the 2017 Lyrebird Award from Glass Lyre Press. Her flash essay, “Just a Big Cat,” was one of Creative Nonfiction’s top-read stories for 2021. Recent and upcoming publications include Oregon Humanities, Creative Nonfiction, North Dakota Quarterly, Spillway, A-Minor, Redactions, Consequence, The Sunlight Press, The Pedestal, San Pedro River Review, and Critical Read. Erica served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, California, from 2013-2016. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she teaches, writes and edits the newsletter Sticks & Stones.

My Mother Walked to John Story Jenks School by Lois Perch Villemaire

My Mother Walked to John Story Jenks School

I could be stepping in her footprints
as I navigate the crooked sidewalks
on the same route to school
my mother skipped along in her
charming hometown where
I have chosen to spend the weekend
celebrating my birthday.

I gaze into the August sky
at the building constructed in 1923,
the same year my mother was born,
this Late Gothic Revival,
three-story yellow brick façade, with
cement steps, stonewalls, and
unique architectural features
hidden by towering trees.

She would be delighted to find me here
admiring the nearby historic water tower.
My mother— running late even as a child,
dashing through the neighborhood,
carrying a book bag, a sweater,
curly hair tangled by the wind,
her footprints can be found all over town.

*

Lois Perch Villemaire, originally from the Philadelphia area, is a longtime resident of Annapolis, MD where she is inspired by the charm of a colonial town and the glorious Chesapeake Bay. After retirement from a career in local government, she concentrated on her love of writing. Dabbling in family research has inspired poetry, memoir, and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in a number of journals such as Ekphrastic Review, Flora Fiction, and One Art: A Journal of Poetry, and has been included in several anthologies. Lois was a finalist in the 2021 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry. She enjoys yoga practice, amateur photography, and raising African violets.

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.