Cape Charles by Ernest Hilbert

Cape Charles

Slab-like tankers ride at anchor.
The weakened sun still splashes acetylene
Across the water, nearly blinding me.
I swim out and surface amid the inferno,
Turn into the current and swim
For the red-lensed harbor beacon
Perched high on its oil-derrick obelisk.

Foam coughs up from the jetty’s black granite,
And seastink hangs on its edges. Floating up,
I seize the steel ladder and lug my weight
From the soapy backwash of warm water—
The lowest rungs slimy with algae
And bay grass, then the grip of dry iron
As I ascend the little lighthouse.

A great blue heron wheels and returns to shore.
As I reach the platform of metal mesh
The hazard strobe blazes around me
For a while, goes off, then returns.
To the south: a breakwater of half-sunken
Concrete ships, forecastles like fortress orillons,
Hulls squat on their sandbars in low waters.

The messy sunset is alive with wind.
The great marine lamp behind me throws its red,
Reflecting off crests as waves arrive,
Dyeing them as they ride in past the headland.
Now my light’s the only one remaining on the bay.

In the humid dark I feel a storm move closer,
But it’s impossible to know where.
It’s like a weight in the darkness.
I must swim back, but I stay, drying,
My beacon aimed at the night,
A signal, a warning and little else,
Until another light shows itself.

*

Ernest Hilbert’s books include Caligulan (2015) and Last One Out (2019). He lives in West Philadelphia. Visit him at www.ernesthilbert.com.

Gamble by Daisy Bassen

Gamble

I know how to lose, the Irishman said,
Happily, as if it were his heritage,
Familiar as the particular grey of the town
He’d come from a year ago, a town
He wasn’t ready to return to. Winning
And losing, the sides of a tossed coin
Before it’s caught in his callused hand,
He meant they were joined, the chance of one
Predicated on the other. I know how to lose
Without any promises, how to drop my eyes,
Look at the window over his shoulder,
Remembering everything. How it felt to hope
And to be without, unable to keep from pressing on.
I’ve always known I could carry a stillborn,
Could hold a nurse’s hand through the delivery.
The world isn’t made for my victories
And doesn’t care to be remade.
I’d be lost if I considered that, if I gave up
On a sure bet, the coin falling into my hand,
Gravity pulling every atom towards greatness.
I know that like the grey of my town,
The brackish creek sliding under a bridge,
The ocean never very far away.

*

Daisy Bassen is a poet and practicing physician who graduated from Princeton University’s Creative Writing Program and completed her medical training at The University of Rochester and Brown. Her work has been published in Oberon, McSweeney’s, and [PANK] among other journals. She was the winner of the So to Speak 2019 Poetry Contest, the 2019 ILDS White Mice Contest and the 2020 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize. She was doubly nominated for the 2019 Best of the Net Anthology and for a 2019 and 2020 Pushcart Prize. She lives in Rhode Island with her family.

Panacea by Gail Thomas

Panacea

Tangled yellow grass turns chrome
under a gibbous prairie moon,
light sharp enough to saw bones.
Wind keens and sweeps the wells
of grief clean as an empty cabin.
Wilderness — its lure and demise —
the unmet hunger of human eyes.

*

Gail Thomas’ books are Odd Mercy, Waving Back, No Simple Wilderness, and Finding the Bear. Her poems have been widely published in journals and anthologies including CALYX, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, North American Review, and Mom Egg Review. Among her awards are the Charlotte Mew Prize from Headmistress Press for Odd Mercy, the Narrative Poetry Prize from Naugatuck River Review, and the Massachusetts Center for the Book’s “Must Read” for Waving Back. Thomas teaches for the Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshops and has been a fellow at the MacDowell Colony and Ucross. “Panacea” is included in Thomas’ forthcoming fifth collection Rust & Bloom.

Fire and Flood by Kristin Garth

Fire and Flood
(as two Barbie Dreamhouses)

Some have a Barbie dreamhouse as a child.
First I bought, myself, my 20’s, with cash
compiled in strip clubs, a girl going wild
in plaid. Until a stranger lit a match
to burn down everything I had accrued
with lewd choreography. Second an
abuser bought for me, an overdue
idyllic acrylic home that’s briefly
my own, reparations I will choose
to accept. Plastic families are easy
to protect, it would seem. This one I lose
by flood, recluse who lets nobody
in, no men, though this strategy is flawed.
Even plastic is not safe from acts of God.

*

Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net and Rhysling nominated sonnet stalker. She is the author of 20 books of poetry including Flutter Southern Gothic Fever Dream, The Meadow and Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir. Read her poetry journal Pink Plastic House a tiny journal where she is the Dollhouse Architect. Listen to her weekly sonnet podcast called Kristin Whispers Sonnets on Anchor, Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Visit her site Kristingarth.com and talk to her on Twitter @lolaandjolie

Menagerie by Grace Phillips

Menagerie

You fall asleep with your nose
between pages, face down
in the carpet, Blue Dog
keeping watch on the top bunk.

Tangerine sunlight hits your
glass animals, the shark
I glued back together
for you has his fin on backwards.

You are dreaming of things
too big for your tiny hands to hold.

*

Grace Phillips is a 21-year-old writer and student from Danville, Indiana. She has been previously published in the Scarlet Leaf Review, Belle Ombre, the Haiku Journal, and has a short story forthcoming in the literary magazine Not One of Us. More of her work can be found on her website, gracewritesbooks.com

On the Day After You Left This World by Heather Swan

On the Day After You Left This World

I floated out to the island
of bird bones, where
their long gone songs
now whisper in the cattails,
looking for solitude, solace,
but found instead
three cranes waiting
who let me join them
there on the shore,
their heads tipping
toward me, toward the
sounds of geese from
across the lake, toward
the jet plane flying overhead.
Night fell and we stayed—
all of us—cranes, crickets,
cattails, me with my broken body
breathing, and in the graying light
the breeze stroked
the cool waters of the lake,
the water lapping the mud
until all of it
was not separate, all of it
became one breath.

*

Heather Swan is the author of a new collection of poems, A Kinship with Ash (Terrapin Books) and the nonfiction book, Where Honeybees Thrive: Stories from the Field (Penn State Press), winner of the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award. Her nonfiction has appeared in Aeon, Belt, Catapult, Minding Nature, ISLE, The Learned Pig, Edge Effects and is forthcoming in Terrain and Emergence. Her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, The Hopper, Phoebe, Cold Mountain Review, Midwestern Gothic, The Raleigh Review and several anthologies. She has been the recipient of the Martha Meyer Renk Fellowship in Poetry and the August Derleth Prize. She teaches writing and environmental literature at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Visiting the Hospice by Andrea Potos

Visiting the Hospice

Call it heaven already–
air of ochre light, art on the walls–
a mosaiced Balinese dancer, a cathedral of orchids.
I glimpse siderooms filled with books,
leather sofas to sink inside, windows
with green views of paths winding
somewhere I cannot see.
Along the spacious hallways,
no one hurries.
Each person who greets me
carries a stillness I long to keep.
My friend sleeps most of the day now;
at the door of his room, I pause,
knowing the safety of his passage.

*

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. “Visiting the Hospice” is included in Potos’ collection Marrow of Summer forthcoming in June 2021 from Kelsay Books.

Family Food by Wendy Hoffman

Family Food

For fifty years now, I sprinkle the Hungarian sweet paprika onto the cooled sautéed onions and stir in bits of ice.

Mrs. Mathies, who helped my mother clean, had dictated this recipe. She bought her paprika at Paprika Weiss on the east side. It’s all in the spice.

The shop went out of business decades ago.

As newlyweds, my sister and I cooked this dish for our philosopher-husbands—a coincidence. Mother said they became philosophers because they couldn’t win arguments with their parents.

Sisters sharing recipes for beef, chicken, taste, divorce.

We baked from Grandma’s recipe for lemon cake. Mother called it Grandmomela cake.

Sisters sharing histories, genes.

No one else comes so close, like skin, and then it’s gone
like the only store that grinds and sells the authentic.

*

Wendy Hoffman has published three memoirs, Enslaved Queen, White Witch in a Black Robe and in 2020, A Brain of My Own. A German translation of Enslaved Queen is forthcoming. Her book of poetry, Forceps, was also published along with a co-authored book of essays, From the Trenches, written with Alison Miller.

Two Poems by Sandra Kohler

Fall

In a nightmare my husband has converted
to a sect of fundamentalist Christianity and
is insisting I must do so also, otherwise I am
not “in the eyes of God.” It’s fall. The leaves
are falling. In the same dream, my husband’s
walking the dog and I am afraid he will fall.
Volatile fall. I am watching him too closely
and not closely enough. He should be back.
Have I missed the sound of his mother’s
clock striking? What do I miss? Safety.
Something I never had. I can’t imagine
wanting to be in the eyes of God. I want
to be in my husband’s eyes, in his good
graces, in his bed. He’s not at home. He
fell ill, is in the hospital, the ICU, I dream
of watching over him as I can’t these nights.
Waking, seeing my nightmare is dream,
my spirits rise. But he’s absent. It’s
autumn. My spirits fall with the leaves.

*

Seven Years

“It tires her to see the curve of heaven”
Aeneid, Book IV

Why does this line make me think about
my sister? On the seventh anniversary of
her death, I wake thinking of her once more,
of my connections with, my alienation from
her, my anger, my grief, my inability to let
either of them go, let her go, let myself be.

She was seven years older than I, when she
died she was the age I am today, if I died
today, I would be one with her. Just days
ago I found the grey sweater she knitted,
the only garment she ever made that fit me,
that I enjoyed wearing, and find myself

wanting to throw it away, be rid of it. How
to be rid of her? I can’t. If I forgave her,
would I be free? Perhaps I could. Forgive
her for being who she was, for failing me
both when I was a child after mother’s
death, and later, in our adult lives. Yet

I think I’m the one who needs to be
forgiven, for not visiting her in her last
years, the lost years at the end of her life.
Must I forgive her to forgive myself? Is
thinking of forgiving her doing so?
Repeating, retracting, reenacting this
past, present, I am as weary as Dido.

*

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems Improbable Music (Word
Press) appeared in May 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of
Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing (University of
Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including
The New Republic, Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many
others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be
part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast
Technology Center in Philadelphia.