5 Poems by Katie Richards

Goddess

The summer days my mother sits out with us
are not the days we find dead birds with
the neighbor boys screaming watch out

as we toss them at each other, or the days
we play with a pocket knife one boy swiped
from his dad’s dresser, or the days we smash

fire ant mounds just to watch them flood out angry
like lava, their venom just as hot. The days
my mother sits out with us in her swimsuit,

pink blossoms patterned hot across emerald
leaves, ruffle border mapped against chest’s
edge, shoulder straps pulled down to avoid

tan lines, are the days we play house, put
the baby doll in the buggy, the days I trick
one of the boys to kiss me, the days we chalk

hopscotch on concrete in baby blues and hot pinks,
convince the boys to hold our ropes as we skip
to Cinderella dressed in yella went upstairs
 
to kiss her fella, made a mistake On these days
my mother doesn’t notice me pause to watch her
pull her fine brown hair into a ponytail delicate,

high up on her head with a scrunchy borrowed
from one of her girls, then pause and take a sip
from her diet coke, the tender kiss of lip-

stick a crescent moon blushed pink, hung sideways
against can’s edge silver, her fingers breaking
beads of sweat that pop out and pour down

its side. She doesn’t notice me stare in awe as she
squirts a palmful of baby oil out of the clear oval
bottle with the baby pink top on her thighs, watch

as her hand glides across oil glistening sun’s heat into
body, as she rubs it silky into her tan skin. These are
the days I learn how my mother keeps beauty in.

 

Foaling lesson

look girls my mother points as my father
stops the car and there we sit in the middle
of the country road no traffic to block my father

pulls out his camcorder pops in a new cassette
tape hits record for thirty minutes we sit
there and watch the slow pushing of foal

folded body in sac purple coming more out less
in like the ebb and flow of ocean waves spreading
their water thin onto sand until finally crashing

sac pops out tumbles foal bewildered and
clumsy mother nudging it to stand her muzzle
pushed up under its chest firm and unshakeable

 

Gardening after miscarriage

Abandoned shells glister
earth. Green shock rebirthed,
cicadas gone now. Folded fingers
into palm, she crushes their remnants
and sprinkles exoskeletons over flowers.
Dirt pressed to nailbed, lullaby of pressure
meets skin’s retreat.  A groove counts
for each moment left. Pressure fades.

Is there a way to resurrect the lost
blooms? Zinnia buds burn the sun
under. She can’t unremember two
unbodies she never buried.
This year, spring beats green
into the dogwood.

 

Winter walk 

I don’t know what to say. I point
the deer out anyway. Silent body

half gone, present in its decay.
I count aloud its ribs, then

the puppy dogs we pass. My son
flaps his mittened hands

in approval. Only three out
on an afternoon so cold.

Our cheeks blossom red as amaryllis.
I have taken to separating green

bananas on the counter to ripen
them faster. When we get home,

I place him in his highchair, watch
him bang his tray. Banana

squishes through baby’s fist.
Outside, the cardinal’s song

afternoons through the naked
dogwood. Day bruises itself to dusk.

 

Birthday poem

Sunflowers wilt on the counter, stems bent
necks in prayer. Fallen pollen circles the base,

circumference of week’s passing. Sam jumps on
the couch in his diaper, cookie in hand. His thighs

have abandoned their last hint of infancy. Clem scoots
along the coffee table, a pigtail loose, whining at me

to get her. Today is your birthday but you are out
getting your hair cut and oil changed. The dog waits

by the couch ready for scraps, while the cat scrounges
for crumbs in the highchair. Up to my elbows in dishes,

I wish the kids to entertain themselves. Soon we’ll miss
the intensity of these moments clustered together

like willow oak leaves in midsummer. Mourning
dove’s song pulses through their silent congregation.

 

Katie Richards is an MFA candidate at George Mason University. She is the recipient of the 2016 Mark Craver Poetry Award and the 2020 Mary Roberts Rinehart Poetry Award. Her poetry has previously appeared or is forthcoming in the South Dakota Review, DIALOGIST, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and The Inflectionist Review among other places.

Two Poems by Diane Kendig

MATRILINEAGE

“I am looking for the women of my house.”

–Daisy Zamora

Trying to find a woman can be trying.
The damned name change,
that name named “maiden,” lopped,
as never was a Manx tail.

Childbirth takes them too.
My great-grandmother died
in the moment of my great-uncle’s birth,
grandmother, age five, told nothing,
only recalling lullabies in Welsh.

And other early deaths:
my single sister diagnosed with lymphoma
when her sole daughter was three, an old story, that,
the mother who dies when the daughter is five.
See Felix Holt. See Bleak House. See
Dombey and Son. See daughter.

 

 

ANOTHER GAP

My dad developed his photos in a changing bag
on his army cot, got shots from his tail gunner window
in a B-17. And he took pictures of the bodies at Dachau,
hid them from us when we first found them and asked,
“Daddy, what are these black and white ones of piles of rags?”
He sold the battle scenes, bought land with the money,
built a house on it. I do not say, had a house built.
He hand-dug the basement, learned brickwork, installed
furnace and wiring, set in a secondhand mantle
on weekends and evenings after his day job welding.
“So much blood, sweat, and tears,” Mom sighed,
years later. “My blood and sweat and your tears,”
he laughed, which did define their division of labor.
Today, I hear a young writer say she never knew
other people’s houses were not designed
with a developing room. Different class,
different generation.  Mine’s the one that knew,
my parents’— the one that made do.

 

 

Diane Kendig was born and raised in Canton, Ohio, left for 40 years, and returned recently to live in her childhood home, which her father built with his own hands when he returned from WWII. She has four collections of poetry, most recently Prison Terms (2018).  Also she co-edited In the Company of Russell Atkins and translated Nicaraguan poetry for A Pencil to Write Your Name. She has published poetry and prose in many journals and anthologies such as Valparaiso Poetry Review and Under the Sun. A proponent of public workshops and local poets, Kendig conducts writing workshops in prison, schools, and community centers, and she curates the blog, “Read + Write: 30 Days of Poetry,” with over 4,000 readers, for National Poetry Month. Find more at: dianekendig.com

Two poems by Carla Sarett

You know, life

You know the story.

A woman’s seeking,

you know,

And she meets,

you know,

And he’s just what she,

you know.

And everything seems fine until,

marriage,

well, you know.

Her mother,

His mother,

And couldn’t he,

And couldn’t she,

And really, who could with…

And no money.

And children, oh, the children,

And maybe if he,

And maybe if she,

But no one expected,

well, you know.

 

 

how suddenly

how suddenly
padded shoulders vanished,
bodies unbranded were
never seen except
in old movies

hats of miraculous shapes,
black veils, gloves of lemon yellow
died along with her old face,
no longer hers but
a sadder woman’s

her to do-list
had nothing to do
with anything
anyone ever
wanted to do

 
Carla Sarett’s recent appears or is forthcoming in Hobart, Prole, Third Wednesday and elsewhere; and her essays have been nominated for Best American Essays and the Pushcart Prize.  Her novel, A Closet Feminist, will be published in 2022 (Unsolicited Press.). Carla has a Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania, and lives in San Francisco.

Notice Breath by Ona Gritz

Notice Breath

for Julia

 

Notice Breath, my yoga teacher says.
It’s the year of Corona and I take her class
in New Jersey from my house across state lines,
and what I notice today is the lovely unspecificity.
Not notice my breath, or hers, just breath itself
moving unhitched, animating each of us.

One friend with the virus describes
a burning like inhaled chemical fumes.
Another, a pressure like a cheetah
chose her ribcage as a place to rest.
So, yes, these days I notice breath
the way you’d notice a bouquet
on your scarred kitchen table, gathered
bursts so bright at first it’s easy to forget
they’ve been clipped from their roots,
their fading not even all that slow.

Mother’s Day, I watched as two teenage girls
sung a hip hop love song to a masked and gloved
woman on her porch. They stayed on the walk
and I on my side of the street,
but when their song ended, the mom, or aunt
or favorite neighbor, crossed the divide,
took those girls in her arms, deciding
the feel of their heat and heartbeats and sweat
was worth daring the beast for once.

Every day, we’re made to weigh it like that,
sucking in our breath, letting it out
against paper or cloth,
noting its warmth as we do.

 

Ona Gritz’s books include the poetry collections, Geode, a finalist for the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems, written with her husband Daniel Simpson. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Catamaran Literary Reader, The Bellevue Literary Review, Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, and elsewhere. She and Daniel served as poetry editors for Referential Magazine and co-edited More Challenges For the Delusional, a writing guide and anthology featuring prompts by Peter Murphy. Ona is also a children’s author and essayist. Her nonfiction is listed among Notables in Best American Essays and Best Life Stories in Salon.

Self-Care by James Crews

Self-Care

 

Some days it feels like a foreign language
I’m asked to practice, with new words
for happiness, work, and love. I’m still learning
how to say: a cup of tea for no reason,
what to call the extra honey I drizzle in,
how to label the relentless urge to do more
and more as poison. And how to translate
the heart’s pounding message when it comes:
enough, enough. This morning, I search for words
to capture the glimmering sun as it lifts
above the mountains, clouds already closing in
as fat droplets of rain darken the deck.
I’m learning to call this stillness self-care too,
just standing here, watching goldfinches
scatter up from around the feeder like pieces
of bright yellow stained-glass, reassembling
in the sheltering arms of a maple.

 

 

James Crews is the author of four collections of poetry, The Book of What Stays, Telling My Father, Bluebird, and Every Waking Moment. He is also the editor of the popular Healing the Divide: Poems of Kindness and Connection. His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, The New Republic, The Christian Century, and have been reprinted in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry and featured on Tracy K. Smith’s podcast, The Slowdown. Crews holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and a PhD in writing from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He works as a creative coach and lives with his husband on an organic farm in Vermont.

Missive to Nancy by Cathryn Shea

Missive to Nancy 

Dear sister, you would be astonished to know
that I now occupy a house (with only my husband
and cat since the kids have left) which is the same
architecture and plan, built the same year
as that place on Santa Maria Avenue.
It’s a pattern house, a kit. A step up maybe
from ticky tacky, a little box nevertheless.
When I sit in my living room now,

I imagine you shaking your crib into the hallway
from our parents’ bedroom where you were supposed to be
sound asleep for the night per our mother’s anxious prayer:
God Almighty, make baby sleep. Amen.
But, no, you would appear in the hallway at the helm
of your slatted conveyance. Shaking, banging, rattling forward.
Pointing to mother on the couch in front of the TV.

So now I sit here and recall you in your Annie Oakley getup
with six-shooter and holster. Or I see you in your highchair,
bowl of cereal spilled over your head,
milk dripping everywhere, our mother wiping up the mess,
cussing then apologizing for words
that had no meaning to her little girls
who didn’t have a vocabulary for what would be
the design of their lives in this world.

 

 

Cathryn Shea is the author of the full-length poetry collection “Genealogy Lesson for the Laity” (Unsolicited Press, September 2020) and the chapbooks “Backpack Full of Leaves” (Cyberwit, 2019), “Secrets Hidden in a Pear Tree” (dancing girl press, 2019), and “It’s Raining Lullabies” (dancing girl press, 2017). Cathryn’s poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net and appears in New Orleans Review, Typehouse, Tar River Poetry, Rust + Moth, Tinderbox, and elsewhere. Cathryn served as editor for the annual Marin Poetry Center Anthology. See https://www.cathrynshea.com/ and @cathy_shea on Twitter.

Whale Bones by Melissa Chappell

Whale Bones

That night we were in the ocean,
wonder cresting and breaking over me,
the crescent moon sailing on tides of spilled light,
its sails filled with a bitter wind.
You were the oceanic phantasm,
who left me yearning for more.
But as the sun shone
golden through the seam,
you had flown away.
I am left on the encrusted shore alone,
with whale bones and a bottle, emptied of spirits,
with no message.
Sorrow whistles through the bones
and by my wasting fire I weep,
binding my silent wounds.

 

 

Melissa Chappell is a poet residing in South Carolina where she leads a rural lifestyle on land passed down through her family for over 120 years. She enjoys spending time in the woods. She is also musical and is a novice player of the eight course Renaissance lute, along with the piano and guitar. She shares her life with her family and two miniature schnauzers.

1999 by Israel A. Bonilla

To see in the world a narrative one needs loss.
It is only then that the halt awakens a yearning for sense.
Half-hearted hands become a mainspring; disjointed calls, transitions.
We now reside above the frenzied outflows,
industrious masons who grow skeptical of movement.
It is the loaded truck and the run down engine
I think about when the end comes to mind.

 

 

Israel A. Bonilla lives in Guadalajara, Jalisco. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Able MuseBULL, Hawk & WhippoorwillExpanded FieldFEEDÁgoraLetralia, and elsewhere.

 

Through Light Darkly by Fereshteh Sholevar

On the street, when summer was kindly green
The white doves flew over us and offered peace.
The sweet lyrics of summer called for lavish meadows.
Then, you and I took a stroll. You looked like a star at dawn
as if you had squeezed darkness in your fist.

Let me confide in you:
most people are dying in their own particular way,
birds’ wings have been clipped together,
the ghosts of cockroaches are following us,
old ladies have wept all their tears and prayed all their prayers.
The blinded eyes can’t see the fading color of the earth.
Tyrants rule, fools bow, and graves of innocents have become
a sight-seeing attraction.
Sobbing children play with bones
and dogs live no more,
forests are images in storybooks.

We were crestfallen!
Then we saw a basket of blue lights
hanging from the eyes of the moon
and we tasted the moonlight.
We slept in indulgence
and woke up in vigilance.
No more nightmares on the truth of the day.
At that moment the sun came up
and brought us a bouquet of pure light.

 

 

Fereshteh Sholevar, the Iranian born poet and writer, immigrated to Germany and later to USA in 1978. She received her Master’s degree in Creative writing at the University of Iowa and Rosemont College, Pa.  She writes in four languages and has authored 6 books of poetry (two of which are bilingual: English-German and English-Spanish), a novel, and a children’s book. She won two awards from Philadelphia Poets, Pa Poetry Society second prize in 2004, and three awards in 2019. Her new bilingual poetry book (English-French) is available on Amazon: Of Dust And Chocolate.

In Common by Jed Myers

In Common 

I woke wanting to dig, not for anything
underground, no need for a spade,

and not with some rude analytical
blade to cut through a bad attitude,

no pickaxing a tomb for artifacts
tucked in the dust of a lost adolescence,

no, this morning, hearing the crows
bickering over where to get breakfast

while they took turns disturbing a puddle
the rain left last night, while I watched

at an open window, a robin waiting
at a safe distance to wash its wings

once the crows finished and flapped off,
and in that quiet the wind’s come-and-go

musings in the tall throat of the maple,
I wanted to dig shallow, for what we hold

in common, just under a feather
coat as under my skin, in the cackle

and mutter and chirp, inside the jackets
you and I wear out the door some hope

some fear in our throats, in our pockets
a little cash scared up for a coffee

and snack at the stand. We might risk
a nod without seeing the other’s life.

 

 

Jed Myers is author of Watching the Perseids (Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award), The Marriage of Space and Time (MoonPath Press), and four chapbooks, including Dark’s Channels (Iron Horse Literary Review Chapbook Award) and Love’s Test (winner, Grayson Books Chapbook Contest). Among recent recognitions, his poems have won The Briar Cliff Review’s Annual Poetry Contest, the Prime Number Magazine Award, The Southeast Review’s Gearhart Prize, and The Tishman Review’s Edna St. Vincent Millay Prize. Recent work appears in Rattle, Poetry Northwest, The American Journal of PoetryTinderbox Poetry JournalSouthern Poetry ReviewOn the SeawallRuminate, and elsewhere. Myers lives in Seattle and edits poetry for Bracken.