Wednesday, I Had Fourteen Cousins by Holly Burdorff

Wednesday, I Had Fourteen Cousins

Friday, one less. I phone
my assigned branches of the family tree.

My fingertips fret bits of bright foil
from blocks of dark chocolate.

Today, walking the dog, I spot five feathers
stuck straight in the frozen ground.

Then a coo from a low limb. I look up
to a brutal greige fist of a body,

long ribbon of neck, small head
bobbing like a week-old balloon.

A blessing, my boyfriend’s mother would say.
And I’ve never held faith in heaven or,

really, anything higher than a mountain,
but I am certain a mourning dove has never

looked at me like that, cocking its head
and widening its eyes like oh hey, I know you,

and I can discern a message of peace
when it’s landed so squarely in my path.

*

Holly Burdorff’s work recently appears or is forthcoming in Cherry Tree, DIAGRAM, Peatsmoke, and Wax Nine. She earned an MFA in creative writing at The University of Alabama and currently lives near Cleveland, Ohio.

SCROLLER. by Paul Siegell

SCROLLER.

December as is such an evening, not enough
rain as to umbrella,
“Your 40% Off Coupon Expires Tomorrow!”
notified upon resurfacing from subway at Fairmount

with my all turned south along Broad, into the oncoming
composition—DO NOT STEP:
Those of the forward growling their intentions as three lanes
of lit and beam scratched in drizzle, the ethereal

engines of all those traveling on to whatever else comes
next, nights as they do, and as
this one summons in a screen-like feed of commuters
scrolling past,

a yellow Chevy with tinted windows bleeds a ’70s beat
while I linger in the reflective, developing wet and
wait to read the intersection safe,
hoping that what I’m feeling in the corner of my mouth

is not another cold sore.

*

Paul Siegell’s most recent books are The Tongue They Shared (Moonstone Press, 2021) and Take Out Delivery (Spuyten Duyvil, 2018). He was Pennsylvania’s 2021 Montgomery County Poet Laureate.

The Beach House by Terri Kirby Erickson

The Beach House

I imagine myself as a woman with a beach house
made of weathered boards and rusty nails, with

a screen door that slams when it shuts. It is late
November and the sky is pigeon-gray—the clouds

settling like broody hens atop the navy-blue water.
A cold wind whisks the salty air and licks the ocean’s

foam, as white as fallen snow against the wet sand.
How the seabirds cry as they circle and swoop. And

somewhere in the distance, a child’s laughter is as
faint as the sound of waves in a conch shell, and as

brief as my childhood. I think of my father, his lean
and freckled body young and strong, how he swam

so far beyond the breakers I thought he would never
make it back. My heart would flutter in my narrow

chest like a bird caught in a drainpipe until he turned
at last, toward the shore. There is no silence deeper

than the stilled voices of those we have loved, no
greater sorrow. Yet, a cup of tea warms my hands,

and clouds are racing now, like herds of Andalusian
horses, across a never-ending field of sea and sky.

*

Terri Kirby Erickson is the author of six collections of poetry, including A Sun Inside My Chest (Press 53), winner of the 2021 International Book Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in “American Life in Poetry,” Asheville Poetry Review, JAMA, Poet’s Market, The Christian Century, The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy, The Sixty-Four: Best Poets of 2019, The SUN, The Writer’s Almanac, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and many more. Awards include the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and a Nautilus Silver Book Award. She lives in North Carolina.

Two Poems by Karly Randolph Pitman

Blessing

              “Even the bird with a broken wing is a prayer.” – Ashley Gates Jansen

Every oak tree holds within it the acorn,
the bud of longing and becoming.
And every acorn holds the whisper
of the promised oak, grand perennial.
But sometimes the acorn does not blossom
but remains tight, a closed bud.
And sometimes mighty oak trees fall
felled by disease, or wind, or storm.
I yearn for my aliveness to unfurl –
to feel strong and sure and sturdy like the oak.
And I long to feel the pull of opening,
the chrysalis cracking open of seed.
Bless the acorn and oak tree within.
Help me, Mercy,
to hold the acorn with as much kindness
as much reverence
as much esteem
as the mighty oak.

*

Stopping for Peaches on a Sunday Afternoon

The day I held my friend as she wept on my shoulder –
the pure white stone of grief –
I played with a baby, snuggled on my hip.
He laughed as he dug his fingers in the dirt and
tugged at the charms of my necklace, each one a new discovery.
On the drive home, I stopped the truck
when I saw the sign for fresh peaches.
I bought a bag, took one,
and held it to my nose,
inhaling the scent of sun and summer.
Is there anything more helpless than burying a child?
Any pain more exquisite than the sharp knife of loss?
And yet I still smell the ripe seduction of peach,
bloomed and fed by days of sun,
the soft fuzz that tickled my fingers.
My shirt carries the milky haze of the baby I held,
soft and warm in my arms.
To live this life: our hearts break, and yet we keep going.
Our hearts break, and again, and again, we love.

*

Karly Randolph Pitman is the founder and steward of Growing Humankindness, where women come together to bring understanding, compassion, and tenderness to the ‘not beautiful’ ways they care for trauma. She’s a mother and mental health advocate, wonderer and writer, teacher and craftswoman who does as much as possible with her hands. She lives in Austin, Texas where she walks among gnarled oak trees and tends her ancestors, those kin of family and community. Through each trip to the underworld, she remains in awe of the human heart.

If Summer Sear the Landscape by Helen Stevens Chinitz

If Summer Sear the Landscape

His hands tremble as I smooth the sheet
by his cheek, meds providing clarity—memory
piecemeal, he says, no place to put my feet.

Daily, I turn my young son’s mind, north to south,
east to west. I wash and iron his sheets,
pillowcases for his dreams, fill moats with golden carp
he cannot reach. The hook’s barb slipping
the catch beyond his skill, his will
still whole but heading for the flume.

A future can dwell under a mid-stream boulder,
he thinks, or in the pith of every tree. We
are in the third decade of pain, a sear rage risen.

I know when I see him that anger, anger above all
harrowed, is the other side of sorrow.

*

~ Helen Stevens Chinitz ~

After teaching around the country for several years, Steevie (as she is known) moved deep into the Western Catskills to a house she had built with her students. She has published a few things in Denver Quarterly, Southern Poetry Review, Stone Canoe, The Westchester Review, and others; and a chapbook Sluice (2013). She escaped briefly, she says, for an MFA (2017).

At my Grandson’s Baseball Tournament in Myrtle Beach by Steven Luria Ablon

At my Grandson’s Baseball Tournament in Myrtle Beach

We have come here before the first game
for breakfast to the famous Waffle House
teeming with families patiently waiting
with small children as the grills heat up,

and workers whir around tables.
My pleasure this morning is breakfast
with my daughter during her divorce.
She says these are the thinnest

best waffles she’s ever had.
I agree. We go every morning.
She thought her marriage would
never collapse, He wouldn’t beat

their son, have an affair, say he hated her,
complain that her work as a novelist
brought in little money. She wasn’t
slim enough. She blames herself.

Her life is sorrowful. She is as lonely
as a dog left by highway.
I wish I could take her back to her childhood.
I wish I could take her for waffles every day.

*

Steven Luria Ablon, poet and adult and child psychoanalyst, teaches child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and publishes widely in academic journals. His poems have appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines such as The Brooklyn Review, Ploughshares, and The Princeton Arts Review. He has published five full collections of poetry including Tornado Weather (Mellen Poetry Press, 1993), Flying Over Tasmania (The Fithian Press, 1997), Blue Damsels (Peter E Randall Publisher, 2005), Night Call (Plain View Press, 2011), and, most recently, Dinner in the Garden (Columbia, South Carolina, 2018).

Remote by David Ross Linklater

Remote

When I was young
–er I’d spend time
under the kitchen
table, with a blanket
draped down
to make a den and a remote
with no batteries in place
of a toy. I forget each
button’s purpose but
remember how it felt
to hold something
so perfect, with no
screen and the whole
big world in my
freckled hand.

*

David Ross Linklater is a poet from Easter Ross. He is the author of four pamphlets, most recently Star Muck Bourach (Wish Fulfillment Press, 2022). His work has appeared in The Dark Horse, Gutter, New Writing Scotland and Bath Magg. He lives and writes in Glasgow. Twitter @DavidRossLinkla / davidlinklaterpoetry.com

What We Made of Them by Robbi Nester

What We Made of Them

When my son was three or four, raccoons inhabited
the sewer outside our house. Every night, they’d
line up in the dark opening to the storm drain,
a neighborhood as populous as ours, eyes glowing
like stars gone nova. My son called them “psycorns.”
I don’t know where he got the word, but it suited them,
lurking as they did close to the dumpster, snarling
if we threatened to come near, choosing the delicacies
they most preferred from torn plastic garbage bags,
full of wilted heads of lettuce, flaccid carrots, spoiled
beef stew they extracted with their agile fingers.
My neighbor came home one day from the grocery
to find a raccoon and her kits standing in her kitchen.
They had entered through the dog door, foraged
in the pantry for the ten-pound bag of kibble,
ravaged the fruit bowl. She had to call a wildlife
specialist to remove the raccoon family
from the house before they shredded the sofa,
filled the place with fleas. How far these urban-dwelling
raccoons were from the meticulous and clever creatures
I had seen on nature films, with pointed, elven faces,
washing up before they ate. Orchards and woods
are mostly gone now. Sewers serve as raccoon
freeways, shortcuts to the closest park or vacant lot.

*

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

My Life with Rivers by Susan Shaw Sailer

My Life with Rivers

I come from rivers though I live on land.
Began where the Mississippi rises
from Minnesota ground, loped west
with the Missouri until it turned south
when I stayed north. Followed the Blackwater
far as I could, caught the Snake and went
on west till Columbia carried me to Puget Sound
where waves carved chunks from hills.
I fled inland, heard rivers calling me east
to Michigan, to Chicago on the lake.
Kept moving until Monongahela made me home.
Where now shall I roam?

*

Susan Shaw Sailer lives in Morgantown, West Virginia. She has published three books—Ship of Light, The God of Roundabouts, and The Distance Beyond Sight—as well as two chapbooks—COAL and Bulletins from a War Zone. Sailer is a member of Chatham University’s Madwomen in the Attic Program and participates in online classes through Zoom.

Why I Couldn’t Give You Away by Dana Kinsey

Why I Couldn’t Give You Away

You lapped every other pretty dream
I embraced 30 autumns ago,
then broke the finish line ribbon,
declaring us victors as our eyes locked
out the world & opened to each other
in a photo finish no one could dispute.

That Polaroid the nurse snapped
redevelops every time I conjure it —
you, a swaddled promise in pink
striped blanket & I contemplating
if you knew just how close I was
to gifting you to a childless couple
who paced in the waiting room
because I loved their love story
more than the one I imagined.

It took 28 hours to separate us,
shove us toward the unimaginable
murky crystal ball where you never
talked of Thumbelina at the bus stop,
cut off one pigtail to make kids laugh,
memorized play lines or learned how
one stage light feels like a million
days of sunshine on a deserted beach.

You felt the last drop of my resolve
dissolve as I cuddled you near
enough to feel your breath heat
the hollow under my chin where
your head tucked neatly into place
as you settled in above my heart.

The truth is I had no way to be sure
if selfishness or devotion surged
in me or what grace I deserved till you
walked your fingers up my cheek,
stopped when they absorbed all
gray-soaked days I could recall.

*

Dana Kinsey is an actor and teacher published in Writers Resist, Drunk Monkeys, ONE ART, On the Seawall, Porcupine Literary, Sledgehammer Lit, West Trestle Review, and Prose Online. Dana’s play, WaterRise, was produced at the Gene Frankel Theatre. Her chapbook, Mixtape Venus, is published by I. Giraffe Press. Visit wordsbyDK.com.