Two Poems by Brandon Thein An Vu

Love Language
Before her 2nd shift

She stretches out her arms
Sighs
Then
gets up from bed. Almost immediately

The kitchen is covered with a smoky haze
Filling the nostril with
Caramelized pork belly
And jasmine rice. Across the table are

Bean sprouts,
green onions, and
Sriracha
For Mi Quảng later. Softly,

She calls
Honey go eat.
Those were the same words
I heard. After

I failed my driver’s test
After my 1st heartbreak
And after small
Disagreements. I’ve been told

There are 5 love languages
But
she’s taught me
there are six.

*

Contents of the Curriculum

the educator steps back
carefully observing the room
scanning every student
a kaleidoscope of cultures

his classroom
a symposium of sound
where students celebrate inexperience
and persist with gossip overhear:

Today, we’ll be going over Vietnamese literature.
is what the educator wanted to say.
instead, he lets out a sigh:
Today, we’ll be going over Catcher in the Rye.

*

Brandon Thein An Vu is an educator who holds an MA in Education from UC Davis and a BA from San Francisco State. He currently teaches in the Bay Area and has a cat named Raymond.

Autumn Migration by Allen Helmstetter

Autumn Migration

Every autumn, flocks of blackbirds sheltered
in the two elms at the corner of my street
until the wind finally blew them south.
When they migrated, I envied them.
They got to go to places I had never been—
and for free; it seemed unfair to me.
Aunt Laura died during last year’s migration.
She had never traveled far from home,
but I knew she traveled inwardly—
to places blackbirds never see.
Then she’d come back and seeing me,
would ask if I, too, had been traveling.

*

Allen Helmstetter lives in rural Minnesota. He loves the rivers, woods, and fields there, and after hiking the trails is often inspired to write about the relationships between nature, technology, and the human spirit. His poems have been published in North Coast Review, Willawaw Journal, Ariel Chart, and Bulb Culture Collective.

Sixteen at the Spa by Deborah Bacharach

Sixteen at the Spa

In the hushed low
lit locked room, back when
no one but sailors and sluts
strutted with tattoos, I watch a butterfly shimmer
droplets above
the nipple of a stranger’s
pale smooth breast.

The cook sears
meat raw to ready.
Steam fills me before
I bite any flesh.

We all can strip.
From my treasure chest, a thousand
mourning cloaks and monarchs
lift and hum.

*

Deborah Bacharach is the author of Shake & Tremor (Grayson Books, 2021) and After I Stop Lying (Cherry Grove Collections, 2015). Her poems, essays and book reviews have been published in Midwest Quarterly, Poetry Ireland Review, Vallum, Cimarron Review, New Letters and Poet Lore among many others. She is a college writing instructor, editor, and tutor and teaches poetry workshops for children. Find out more about her at DeborahBacharach.com.

Loft on 56th by J-T Kelly

Loft on 56th

The way you’d say things—
Hey, for example—

Well, it makes me lonely
the way you don’t say it anymore.

*

J-T Kelly is an innkeeper in Indianapolis. He lives in a brick house with his wife and six children, his two parents, and a dog.

Credo in the Age of Facebook by Gloria Heffernan

Credo in the Age of Facebook

I believe friend is a noun, not a verb—
          and unfriend is a contradiction in terms.

I believe it takes a volcanic eruption to unmountain a mountain
          and unfriending a friend should take no less seismic an event.

I believe in the utter beauty of the unuttered opinion
          that takes the time to marinate in the brine of thought
          instead of being served up instantly and indisputably as fact.

I believe a sumptuous meal is meant to be eaten, not uploaded
          so please don’t bring your smart-enough-to-know-better phone
          to my table. I have not set a place for Siri.

I believe the most social of media is still a knock on the door
          and shared laughter over a cup of coffee
          that 643 people do not have to read about in real time.

I believe my beliefs make me the anachronism
          I have always believed myself to be,
          and friend, that’s okay. It’s just who I am…

                    “Like” it or not.

*

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 over 100 publications including Columbia Review, Stone Canoe, and Yale University’s The Perch. For more information, please visit her website at www.gloriaheffernan.wordpress.com.

Origami of Shock by Brett Warren

Origami of Shock

The first time was the worst: how graciously
he opened the door to welcome me in,

saying I had just missed them—the figurines
who like to run back and forth across the carpet.

How he made a little running motion
with his fingers, adding that if I’d come earlier,
I’d have seen a tiny version of myself

perched on the bookshelf among knick-knacks
and a fine layer of dust. How his eyes
kept darting over to see if I/she was still there.

How a life-sized version of me began to edge
toward the door, feeling my way along the wall
with my shoulder.

How I couldn’t take my eyes off him,
couldn’t break free from the terrible trance
of his smile. How the thing

that brought me back was my left hand,
which had been in my coat pocket

the whole time, folding a grocery list
into smaller and smaller squares.

*

Brett Warren is the author of The Map of Unseen Things (forthcoming from Pine Row Press). She is a long-time editor whose poetry has appeared in Canary, The Comstock Review, Halfway Down the Stairs, Hole in the Head Review, Cape Cod Poetry Review, and many other publications. She lives in Massachusetts, in a house is surrounded by pitch pine and black oak trees—nighttime roosts of wild turkeys, who sometimes use the roof of her writing attic as a runway. brettwarrenpoetry.com

A Sonnet in Recession by KHD

A Sonnet in Recession

Some metaphors are too obvious—we all fell off
a stationary bike. My daughters pop bubbles

and we read a book about bears—a canoe crashes off
a waterfall’s chart. The playgrounds are parents pushing

their phones on swings—conversations sink to a chorus of lyrics
lamenting the price of gas. Fortunes lost as fast as blowing out

birthday candles. We forget to be Banksy’s red balloons
instead of shredded paintings. There is no such thing

as a free lunch—not even a squiggly square of ramen noodles
stuffed into a wrinkled brown sack. But they still haven’t found

a way to tax us for our thoughts. The best brains are antifragile—
they’ll patch our cracked AI commodities with molten gold.

What first presents as plunging could be the biggest swing of all.

*

KHD’s love of poetry first bloomed as a child. She memorized Robert Frost sitting on a tree stump and bathed in Edgar Allan Poe as an adolescent. While studying words at Florida State University, she played with chips and became a professional poker player. She’s passionate about the immense potential NFTs present for poetry, and enjoys helping onboard traditional poets primarily through Twitter (@Katie_Dozier). Her poetry has recently been published by Rattle, Frontier, and The Tickle. She maintains TheNFTPoetryGallery.com as a vehicle for showing the potential of CryptoPoetry.

In the Breaking by Rebecca Doverspike

In the Breaking

A woman with shears contemplates the next cut.
Somewhere a satellite is recording
all of this—time and the time-keeper, bells
like a mouth, the darkening dusk inside.

Perhaps in old age we are like leaves, holes
bitten through by small hungers: watch it go
the tender-hearted afternoon I want
to hold onto. Now it is freezing rain.

Now it is memory. The buds begin
for so long I forget they are flowers
waiting to go home and please stop with the
cleverness: set down all the swords, our faces

do not look anything like we thought
they would. The startling beauty of any
voice, like the woman screaming in the hall:
Why won’t they let me go home. So I sit.

This is your home, I want to say. This hospital
hallway is your desert. People walk through.
They’re re-telling stories of exodus. This
is your sacred pilgrimage—

each you the only you of its kind— here—
where the clocks work differently, where people see right through.
Each one unveiling its mystery,

and no one turns to look. Saying goodbye,
a patient, a painter, a woman says: I was going
to get you flowers but they die. She hands me a card
in permanent marker, the scent still wet.

*

Rebecca Doverspike works as an Interfaith Chaplain in Boston, drawing from Zen Buddhist practice. She holds an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School, an MFA from West Virginia University, and BA from Beloit College. Her chapbook, Every Present Thing a Ghost, was published by Slapering Hol Press in 2019. Other works can be found in: Peripheries, Midwest Review, Valley Voices, 5×5 Literary Magazine, Tupelo Quarterly, Diagram, Ruminate, and others. She loves hiking with her partner and dog.

Walking by Sid Gold

WALKING

Fortunately, you can go out walking.
You expect very little, only dusk
foreshadowing night, the murmur
of animal life at the ready, & a breeze,
its edge honed sharper than expected.
For now, solitude is desire without
fanfare. You can take stock, see things
for what they seem without the burden
of intellect or wit. You could explain
all this, make sense of it, if surrounded,
threatened, coaxed, enticed. Oh yes,
an audience—close friends or passersby,
lovers, perhaps—all suitably intrigued
enough to stick around. What could be
better? You might tell them the night
is yours alone & loneliness a form
of joy that doesn’t advertise. They may
chuckle & swear they understand.
Yo comprendo, says one, as Spanish
is a loving tongue. Do come with us,
they urge, walking toward the bright
lights, your protests, heard as little other
than the rustle of dry leaves, of no use.

*

Sid Gold is the author of four books of poetry, including “Crooked Speech” (Pond Road Press, ’18) and a twice recipient of an MSAC Individual Artist Award for Poetry. His work has appeared recently in the anthology “This Is What America Looks Like,” Backbone Mountain Review, Gargoyle and Loch Raven Review. He also has poems forthcoming in BMR, Gargoyle, Maryland Literary Review, and Schuylkill Valley Journal. His first book, “Working Vocabulary,” was reissued by the Washington Writers’ Publishing House in 2021.

Coming to Terms by Rhett Watts

Coming to Terms

A pair of crows swoop down on a young rabbit.
Wings explode, furred hind legs kick high.
I throw a stone to disrupt the hunt, for now.

Local crows also dive bomb my husband.
They do not like his baseball cap.
Remember faces. Are not fans of masks.

What would they make of a Plague doctor’s
leather top hat, black robes and the beaked mask
filled with herbs against miasmas? Would they

recognize it as Corvid-like or might it merely
appear monstrous? More than a character in
Commedia dell Arte, plague doctors donned early
PPE, let blood, witnessed wills, counted dead bodies.

Later, we drive by crows pecking at roadkill—
a cottontail chased onto asphalt. I sigh. Breathing in,
imagine the savory scent of rosemary and juniper.
My husband tugs at his cap. We drive on.

*

Rhett Watts has poems in Sojourners Magazine, The Worcester Review, Canary, Naugatuck River Review, San Pedro River Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Lyric, and Sow’s Ear Poetry Review among others and in the book The Best Spiritual Writing 2000. She won the CT Poetry Award and the Rayne Arroyo Chapbook Award for No Innocent Eye. Her books of poems are: Willing Suspension (Antrim House Books) and The Braiding (Kelsay Books). Rhett facilitates writing workshops in CT and MA and lives feet from a brook with her husband and Maine Coon cat.