Two Poems by Allison Blevins & Joshua Davis

My Mother’s Unfinished Canvases: A Triptych

I.
An octopus cradles: paperclips, a peasant blouse,
one Tarot card, three Camel Lights, a shattered flute,
lavender lotion, black nail polish, a goldfish
in its plastic balloon. The goldfish is unsurprised.

II.
The elder of the two
lacks a face. She tests
her wingspan. The tree,
if it is a tree, recedes into
droplets of smolder.

III.
A blue dot surrounded by cream
and emptiness. Blue waits for a dark-haired child, waits
for morning like a telegram—dashes and dots
carried in a leather and horsehair handbag.

*

We Send Elizabeth Bishop a Mermaid Postcard

Dear Elizabeth, we’re all children
of yours, we girlboys and boygirls.
Object if you like. Pour us another.

Someone has taken a razor
to the shadows of hedgerows.
Sandhill cranes cry out to each other
across parking lots, mournful,
prehistoric and absurd.

Elizabeth, we coil our voices
tighter than Victorian hair ornaments
to ask you:

If I hadn’t burned my father’s irreplaceable body,
would you have helped us hurl his corpse
over the White House lawn?

*

Allison Blevins is a queer disabled writer. She is the author of the collections Handbook for the Newly Disabled, A Lyric Memoir (BlazeVox, 2022) and Slowly/Suddenly (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press, 2021). Cataloguing Pain (YesYes Books, 2022), a finalist for the Pamet River Prize, is forthcoming. She is also the author of the chapbooks Chorus for the Kill (Seven Kitchens Press, 2022), Susurration (Blue Lyra Press, 2019), Letters to Joan (Lithic Press, 2019), and A Season for Speaking (Seven Kitchens Press, 2019), part of the Robin Becker Series. Allison is the Founder and Director of Small Harbor Publishing and the Executive Editor at the museum of americana. She lives in Missouri with her partner and three children where she co-organizes the Downtown Poetry reading series. For more information visit allisonblevins.com.

Joshua Davis holds an MFA from the University of Mississippi and an MFA from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. He is the author of Chorus for the Kill (Seven Kitchens Press, 2022). Recent poems have appeared in The Poetry Distillery, the museum of americana, and The Midwest Quarterly. He is a doctoral candidate in American Literature at Ohio University.

Bitter Brunches by Betsy Mars

Bitter Brunches

All those Mother’s Day brunches begrudged
as we sat in our anger and self-righteousness,

judged your defects – not celebrating
for a moment in all our perfect holiness.

And now I bow my head, repent, often
alone on those Hallmark Sundays

when my children, too, resent
the unspoken demand

for elevation and forgiveness,
for flowers and kisses

which I secretly pray
might finally bear witness

so I can pretend for a day
that I had been a better mother.

*

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.

Sledding Downhill by Blair Kilpatrick

Sledding Downhill

Spooning
encircled by his arm
my diaphragm
feels the weight
of comfort
and demand
to slow my breathing
and settle back
into a shared sleep
that will not come
on this restless night
turned to morning

I am breathless
I am riding
the vintage roller coaster
that frightened me
as a child
built like a bobsled
boy behind girl
holding her close
according to my mother
the one time a nice girl
could freely settle
between his legs
in the dark

They called it
the Flying Turns
lacking a track
it promised a spinning
free-wheeling descent
through a hollow
wooden chute

My racing heart
chases my breath
echoes
in my empty chest
I am spinning
I am sliding
too fast
too fast
downhill.

*

Blair Kilpatrick is a psychologist and musician. She is the author of Accordion Dreams: A Journey into Cajun and Creole Music (U. Press Mississippi). She received the first annual SUA literary award for her creative nonfiction. Her poetry has appeared in Amethyst Review and littledeathlit. She lives in Berkeley, California with her husband. Her website is www.blairkilpatrick.com

It’s So Incredibly Brave to Be a World Map, by Yvonne Zipter

It’s So Incredibly Brave to Be a World Map,

knowing the answer to the question Whose
country is this anyway? is subject to change,

knowing that as soon as someone punctures
the four corners of your colorful cartograph

with thumbtacks and affixes you to some
classroom wall, the lines depicting borders

are apt to shimmer like road lines in heat,
a mirage of constancy, knowing that,

at any given moment, another Czech Republic
might decide to rebrand itself as Czechia,

knowing that almost as soon as your ink
has dried, you will become obsolete.

*

Yvonne Zipter is the author of the poetry collections Kissing the Long Face of the Greyhound, The Patience of Metal (a Lambda Literary Award Finalist), and Like Some Bookie God. Her poems have appeared in numerous periodicals over the years, including Poetry, Southern Humanities Review, and Bellingham Review, as well as in several anthologies. Her published poems are currently being sold individually in Chicago in two repurposed toy-vending machines, the proceeds of which are donated to the nonprofit arts organization Arts Alive Chicago. She is also the author of the nonfiction books Diamonds Are a Dyke’s Best Friend and Ransacking the Closet and the Russian historical novel Infraction.

An Incomplete List of Things that Burst: a cento by Erin Murphy

An Incomplete List of Things that Burst

          a cento

A magenta strip of Mylar balloon that glints when turned to the sun—

          or burst pipes and water flooding rooms.

Lilies, sweet peas, and snapdragons

          and the apple trees covered with blossoms and the fruit

of an orange whose cross-section resembles my lungs.

          I would be still—I would be silent and quake—

my body like a living coal—

          the air it rises through—

the break in the heart—

          the weapon—the bomb we make.

Credits: William Brewer, Robin Becker, Yusef Komunyakaa, Walt Whitman, Major Jackson, Anne Waldman, James Weldon Johnson, Maggie Smith, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Katie Ford

*

“An Incomplete List of Things that Burst” is from Erin Murphy’s new chapbook, Fields of Ache, a collection of centos forthcoming from Ghost City Press as part of its 2022 Summer Series.

About Fields of Ache: Forthcoming in summer 2022, this collection of centos focuses on identity and the natural world. A cento (from the Latin for “patchwork”) is a collage poem made up of lines by other poets. Murphy says, “I’m interested in the way the meaning of the lines shifts as the context shifts,” adding that despite the seemingly random nature of the form, the process is anything but arbitrary. “You need to have something to say before you find the lines to help you say it.”

*

Erin Murphy is the author or editor of thirteen books, most recently Taxonomies. “An Incomplete List of Things that Burst” is from her new chapbook, Fields of Ache, a collection of centos forthcoming from Ghost City Press as part of its 2022 Summer Series. Another collection, Human Resources, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. Her work has appeared in such journals as Poet Lore, Waxwing, Diode, Southern Poetry Review, Southern Humanities Review, The Georgia Review, North American Review, and Women’s Studies Quarterly. Her awards include the Rattle Poetry Prize Readers’ Choice Award, The Normal School Poetry Prize, the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize, and a Best of the Net award. She is Professor of English at Penn State Altoona and serves as Poetry Editor of The Summerset Review and Poet Laureate of Blair County (Pa.). Website: http://www.erin-murphy.com

Poetry in Motion by W. D. Ehrhart

Poetry in Motion

So my buddies and I are eating a pizza
in a picnic pavilion in a public park
in Bridgeton, New Jersey, and this guy
in a Bridgeton Municipal pick-up truck
pulls up and stops, gets out, pulls
the top off a trash barrel next to us,
pulls out a loaded trash bag, ties it shut,
and without even looking, throws it
back over his shoulder one-handed
twenty feet into the truck bed.
Clunk. Perfect. Beautiful.

*

W. D. Ehrhart is an ex-Marine sergeant and veteran of the American War in Vietnam. His latest book is Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company.

A poem begins with a lump in the throat by Roseanne Freed

A poem begins with a lump in the throat
                                                   —after Robert Frost

Sunday will be six weeks
since our daughter died.
A date. Not a celebration.
My mouth eats without hunger.
My pillow forgets how to sleep.
Mail piles up on the table—
six issues of The New Yorker
lie unopened.

People of the Lakota tribe believe
a grieving person is holy
because we’re closer to the spirit world
and inhale a natural wisdom
with our sorrow.

I don’t feel holy,
or wise.

I put her pictures all over the house.
Her father calls them ghosts.

They comfort me.

*

Roseanne Freed was born in South Africa and now lives in Los Angeles. She loves hiking and shares her fascination for the natural world by leading school children on hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains. Her poetry has been published in Contrary Magazine, Verse-Virtual, and Blue Heron Review.

Recess by Alex Rettie

Recess
Hartford, 1952

They’re ruthless, these children. When I have playground
Duty all I hear is, “Sister! They won’t
Let me have a turn,” or “Timmy Brady said
That Mikey Flynn runs like a girl and now
He’s crying like one, too.” Each morning playtime
Tortures someone until tears run down their
Face like prisoners looking for a place to
Hide. I do my best, Lord, to bring comfort –
I do my best to wipe away the stain of
Sadness, but it never goes away. It
Grows. It spreads like summer freckles. What have you
Done to them? How did they get so angry
And so cowed? I wish I had a wardrobe full
Of millstones I could tie around your necks.

*

Alex Rettie is a Canadian poet, songwriter, and book reviewer with poems published or forthcoming in journals in Canada, the US, and the UK.

In the Beginning by Robbi Nester

In the Beginning

When I was three, the street signs used to taunt
me with arcane symbols, not yet words. I knew
that if I studied them, they would open-sesame
the world I dreamed about, the one in books,
built out of these odd symbols. I filched a paper
from the corner store and stared at it for hours,
till the letters rose like flame from a struck
match. It was years before some kind adult
taught me the alphabet. Instead, my father
took the newspaper away and punished me
for stealing it. Later, every week, I’d borrow
ten books from the library. I couldn’t wait
to open them. But my mother thought
that children ought to play outside. I hid
out in the car like an assassin, sat silent
on the darkened cellar stairs, a stack
of books beside me, Prometheus, savoring
the danger, hoarding this stolen light.

*

Robbi Nester is the author of four books of poetry and editor of three anthologies. She is a retired college educator and elected member of the Academy of American Poets. Her website is at http://www.RobbiNester.net

Daily Bread by Susan Michele Coronel

Daily Bread

Ultimately, isn’t that all that’s left, the hunger
for community and the sacrament of fresh bread
with an egg hollowed from its center, filling the cave

of mouth? No way to empty the memory bone
except by noticing what’s glazed by the moisture
of morning. In my rocking chair, I’m reading a book

on mindfulness, my stockings hiked up until the elastic
imprints my knees. I keep reading until it’s time
to wash down the last crumbs of the bread body,

flesh rippling like clear water in a tall glass,
fingertips imprinting its sides
as a band of white light bleeds through.

*

Susan Michele Coronel lives in New York City. Her poems have appeared in publications including Spillway 29, TAB Journal, The Inflectionist Review, Gyroscope Review, and Prometheus Dreaming. In 2021 one of her poems was runner-up for the Beacon Street Poetry Prize, and another was a finalist in the Millennium Writing Awards. In the same year, she received a Pushcart nomination and was longlisted for the Sappho Prize. She just completed her first full-length poetry manuscript.