Nebraska by Robert Okaji

Nebraska

What have we crumpled and tossed
into the trashcan across the blacktop

if not decades of forfeited days
and those broken-feathered

regrets pinned under glass. Groaning,
incapable of elegance, still I long

to be those undulating grains by
the roadside in the great between.

Crows caw out of sight as I pump
gas and watch your hair blowing

in the angled light. Sing me your
favorite birdsong. Whisper the cloud’s

name. Tomorrow we’ll dream in Iowa
of corn that is not just corn, but

the emblem of that junction between
innovation and form, function and all

that blisters under the sun’s unforgiving
eye. I want to infiltrate each kernel,

peer through the veiled yellow-white,
recover sweetness, flatten the curve.

*

Robert Okaji is a displaced Texan seeking work in Indiana. He once owned a bookstore, served as a university administrator, and most recently bagged groceries for a living. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in As Above So Below, Slippery Elm, Atlanta Review, Vox Populi and elsewhere.

Across the Street by Jason Fisk

Across the Street

We live in the suburbs
and we have a Ring Doorbell
and we have a tiny dog
and there are coyotes
that live in the woods
across the street

I let the dog out
every night before bed
and watch her sniff
the air for dangerous news
blowing from
our coyote neighbors
across the street

I keep an aluminum baseball bat
by the front door
just in case the coyotes
decide to attack her
or try to lure her
back across the street

My imagination has
played out a scenario
where they surround her
and I come thundering
out of the house swinging
the bat left and right
taking out one coyote after another
knocking them here and there
sending them yelping back
to the woods
across the street

I think about the rush
I would get from
posting the Ring-Doorbell video
on Facebook

Every like a micro dose
of adrenaline

*

Jason Fisk lives and writes in the suburbs of Chicago. He has worked in a psychiatric unit, labored in a cabinet factory, and mixed cement for a bricklayer. He was born in Ohio, raised in Minnesota, and has spent the last 25 years in the Chicago area. www.jasonfisk.com

Traveling Back by Barbara Sabol

Traveling Back

On our nightly walks, my dog, Traveler,
will crane toward the occasional passing car,
studying each driver’s face, maybe searching

for his first master, the one who might have
taught him to lean full-bodied into love,
who conditioned in him a fierce loyalty.

Perhaps gone astray chasing a chipmunk
in the park or, slipping past a backyard gate,
he found himself irretrievably lost.

Rescued from the street two counties
and six years removed, my cherished companion
may believe, in the instinctive sensory wash

of canine thinking, that his first master
has all this time been driving everywhere,
still looking for him.

I was the family black sheep, declaring to the one
whose life was given over to my care,
I wish you weren’t my mother, with no thought

of my power to bruise. Knowing only the chafe
of that bond, I left with a one-way bus ticket
in my blue jean pocket. In the last years

of my mother’s life, I worked my way back,
fumbling with the intricacies of that knot,
frayed with time and distance, but still holding.

If one day some driver should stop, push open
the passenger door, call my dog by a name
that pricks up his ears, makes him shiver and whine

with joy, I wonder if I could release his leash,
let him leap into the car, and then with a resolve
hard as love, close the door behind him.

*

Barbara Sabol’s fourth collection, Imagine a Town, was awarded the 2019 Poetry Manuscript Prize from Sheila-Na-Gig Editions. Her poetry has appeared widely in journals; most recently, Evening Street Review, Northern Appalachia Review, The Comstock Review, and Literary Accents, as well as in numerous anthologies. Her awards include an Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. Barbara lives in Akron, OH with her husband and wonder dogs.

Space by Cathleen Cohen

Space

My son planes planks
then checks for splinters.
He’s building a desk with old factory salvage,
boards that once supported

machines, grime, men’s weight
for so long that now
they’re as yellow as egg yolks
flecked with red.

He used to drift through parties
when young, leave the table
to search for carved mantles,
crown moldings, curlicues and corbels.

I’d find him
stroking the grain, the artistry.
Now I bring sandwiches,
sit near the scant warmth

of his plug-in heater
and consider the view:
panorama, a mosaic
of high-rises and rooftops,

windows like tiles reflecting
soft movements of humans.
I used to have
my own studio space.

I’d paint abstracts
and hold day long conversations
with crimson and ultra blue,
make marks with charcoal sticks,

catch lyrics. To paint portraits,
I invite souls in
to sit near the windows
so they could feel a little freer.

*

Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. A painter and teacher, she founded the We the Poets program at ArtWell, an arts education non-profit in Philadelphia (www.theartwell.org). Her poems appear in journals such as Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, 6ix, North of Oxford, One Art, Passager, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review and Rogue Agent. Camera Obscura (chapbook, Moonstone Press), appeared in 2017 and Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press), is forthcoming in 2021. She received the Interfaith Relations Award from the Montgomery County PA Human Rights Commission and the Public Service Award from National Association of Poetry Therapy. Her paintings are on view at Cerulean Arts Gallery (www.ceruleanarts.com).

Two Kinds of Dead People by Ralph James Savarese

Two Kinds of Dead People

Scientists call
getting lost
in a
book “transport.”
It’s the
same with
death, really.
You’re delivered
like a
FedEx package,
conveyed by
escalator or
moving sidewalk.
You must
get lost
to live.

*

Ralph James Savarese is the author of two collections of poetry, Republican Fathers (Nine Mile Books) and When This Is Over: Pandemic Poems (Ice Cube Press). He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

Absence by Ed Ahern

Absence

In this time of needed absence
when distant words are thin soup
and images cannot be grasped,
we offer the lack of ourselves
as a protective prayer for those
we love too much to touch,
and hope that our denial
of those we hold most close
keeps us intact and caring
for a later day.

*

Ed Ahern resumed writing after forty odd years in foreign intelligence and international sales. He’s had over two hundred fifty stories and poems published so far, and six books. Ed works the other side of writing at Bewildering Stories, where he sits on the review board and manages a posse of six review editors.

Ahern on social media:

https://www.facebook.com/EdAhern73/?ref=bookmarks
https://www.instagram.com/edwardahern1860/

From the back porch of a war by James Feichthaler

From the back porch of a war

I wish I could be like this dandelion —
patient, awaiting rains. Thousands are dying,
and we’ve been told to stay inside our homes
to keep the numbers down. The squirrels aren’t buying
such lousy edicts, rummaging through our garden
for anything to stuff between their gums.
They don’t have bills past due or rent to pay,
patients to tend to, politicians’ lies
to aggravate their fears in these dark times;
oblivious to the shortage of supplies
in hospitals, to a panic that only comes
when having too much (as a luxury)
infects the brain. Here, on this warm March day,
their hoarding means new life is on the way.

*

James Feichthaler is a poet and essayist whose work has most recently appeared in Sortes, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Martin Lake Journal, and the Mad Poets Society’s Local Lyrics series. His new book The Rise of the COVFEFE, a poetical satire of these divided and uncertain times, was recently published by Parnilis Media. He is also the host of an open mic reading in Manayunk, PA called The Dead Bards of Philadelphia.

Two Poems by Francine Witte

In the teal of morning

Sun lamping up the sky,
we rub our cloud eyes, rub
the fossil night off and start
the dayburn. Turn on the radio,
same old talk of a planet cracked
and ribbed with fires and flood
and hate, tarred up with sludge,
which, really, could have been
glitter if only we had tried.

*

Sunfizzle

And the drip of daywater
slowing, slowing. Nearby,
burnt rubber from a car
speeding on its way to begin
something, to end something.
Shreds of the day in the sky
going violet with twilight.
The sulk of the sun, its
fizzle coming to a dead
stop, the walkaway of time.

*

Francine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, Passages North, and many others. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and (The Theory of Flesh.) Her chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) will be published by ELJ September, 2021. She lives in NYC.

Sleep Skills by Andrea Potos

Sleep Skills

These days I wake up tired
after hours skimming sleep’s
surface like a hungry bird, waiting.
They say it’s a fact of growing older,
to lose the skill for sleep infants
and teenagers mindlessly have.

I think of my Yaya, when I was a girl,
she was already dressed before first light;
her body telling her it was time
to live the day, tend to her needles and thread,
her yarn; and in her kitchen, the flour and water
in their porcelain bowls; a woman waiting for the morning
to rise under her hands.

*

Andrea Potos is author of several poetry collections, most recently Mothershell (Kelsay Books), A Stone to Carry Home (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), and Arrows of Light (Iris Press). Another collection is forthcoming in summer of 2021 entitled Marrow of Summer. She received the William Stafford Prize in Poetry, and several Outstanding Achievement Awards in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her poems can be found widely in print and online.