April 6, 2022 by Gary Metras

April 6, 2022

In dream, I am extracting bodies
from the rubble of bombed buildings.
There are many of us under this
granite sky and charred chunks of concrete.
Here and there, torn lace curtains,
broken teacups, an odd shoe. No one
speaks. We find a body and drag
or carry it to the middle of what
was a street. Bodies lined up.
Others check their pockets for IDs,
photograph them if they have
facial features someone may recognize,
then bag them in plastic so black
light could not shine on the remains
for a thousand years. No one speaks.
After a few days, no one cries,
no one feels. We are as numb as a tree
as we bend and lift and grunt.
In each heart, a hope that there
will be a body, no matter how broken,
that breathes. When another signals me,
I go to help him drag one more body
and he points to its face. I look
at it, then at him standing like a tree
with drooping limbs. There, on the
ground, is a body with my face.

*

Gary Metras is the author of eight books of poetry and thirteen chapbooks. His new book is Vanishing Points (Dos Madres Press, 2021). His poems have appeared in such journals as America, The Common, One Art, Poetry, Poetry East, and Poetry Salzburg Review. A retired educator, he fly fishes his home waters in western Massachusetts as often as possible.

Seventh & Idaho by Nathaniel Gutman

Seventh & Idaho

Nothing spectacular, what grabbed my attention,
just unusual, because it was genuine,
the thank you smile and nod of the cyclist
who crossed when I stopped at the four-way
Santa Monica intersection.

Seventy, I’d say, white hair, slender, big blue eyes,
a Van Dyck portrait, take off the fur gown, millstone collar,
not the arrogant type, a humble, generous man,
a face to remember.

Wonder what he does for a living, where he lives,
his wife, what is she like, his children, grandchildren.

He looks at the oncoming truck when
he’s thrown off his bike,
falling, limber, down the asphalt,
a pool of dark, thick blood
spreads from under his
still, peaceful face.

*

Nathaniel Gutman is a filmmaker who has directed and/or written over 30 theatrical/TV movies and documentaries internationally, including award-winning Children’s Island (BBC, Nickelodeon, Disney Channel), Witness in the Warzone (with Christopher Walken), Linda (from the novella by John D. MacDonald; with Virginia Madsen). His poetry has appeared in The New York Quarterly, Tiferet Journal, Pangyrus, LitMag, Constellations, The American Journal of Poetry.

Their World by David Salner

Their World

In the world of the dead
the sun sets every morning;

the pious pray to shadows
they call light;

the successful live in a prison
of their success;

the rich live long lives
in the comfort of their self-love.

And the Arbiter,
who lives to correct everyone else?

Like a stopped clock,
twice a day he’s correct.

Twice.
At most …

*

David Salner’s debut novel is A Place to Hide (Apprentice House, 2021) and his fourth poetry collection is The Stillness of Certain Valleys (Broadstone Books, 2019). He worked as iron ore miner, steelworker, machinist, and now librarian. His writing has appeared in Threepenny Review and Ploughshares. Innisfree Poetry Journal 33 featured a retrospective of 25 poems drawn from his four books. https://www.innisfreepoetry.org/innisfree-33/a-closer-look-david-salner/

Two Poems by Betsy Mars

The improperly squeezed-out sponge*

I am, a place for harboring
bacteria, cellulose thriving
with writhing mold spores—
in my pores, an abundance
of water. Left on the ledge
too long, I dry out, shrink
to half my usual size, still
full of potential, I wait
to be of use.

*From The Secret House by David Bodanis

*

Thirty Birds

There’s a brightness folded into every bird
but the bird doesn’t know it. – Melissa Studdard

And you, in your darkened hood, fold
in upon yourself, forget your underpinnings,
your bright insides, huddle in the wind.
Oblivious to drafting wings or the fish below
whose flash frenzies this fervent gathering,
your eyes locked on churning surf, scolded
by the feather-fanned air, the squawks that sing,
the waves that level, unfurl softly to the shore.

*

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.

Two Poems by Donna Hilbert

Spiritus

I waken to the sound of breathing
so loud I think it’s you beside me.
But no, love, it’s me. My breath, alone.

*

Ribollita

I praise the way you save
stale bread left on the shelf too long,
rinds of Parmesan tough to grate,
old greens not crisp enough
for salad, but fine for soup
re-boiled from what’s on hand.
I love the way you salvage
bruised tomato, sprouting onion,
imperfect squash, laying no morsel
to mold, nothing to waste,
filling each space with aroma
of soup, saying supper, manga!
come eat, come safely, come home.

*

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is the just released Threnody, from Moon Tide Press. Earlier books include Gravity: New & Selected Poems, Tebot Bach, 2018. She is a monthly contributing writer to the on-line journal Verse-Virtual. Work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Braided Way, Chiron Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Rattle, Zocalo Public Square, One Art, and numerous anthologies. Poems have been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and on Lyric Life. She writes and leads private workshops in Southern California, where she makes her home, and during residencies at Write On Door County. Learn more at www.donnahilbert.com

Distress Signals by Kip Knott

Distress Signals

                inspired by the artwork of Aron Wiesenfeld

                “There is a lot of darkness that people are confronting
                right now . . . . All people are like prisms, with internal
                characteristics, through which the world is filtered.”
                       —Aron Wiesenfeld

1.

When I was a child I sailed
toy ships in the drainage ditch
beneath the looming overpass
that ran behind our house.

Tires speeding through puddles
overhead channeled crashing waves
that I imagined smashed against the hull
tied to the end of my line.

Breaching eighteen-wheeled
leviathans shook the world around me,
rippling rings of greasy rainbows
from one shore to the next.

Above everything, I heard my parents
shouting, not for me to come in,
but at each other, the way thunder yells
at lightning for flashing too bright.

To this day I still don’t know
if I was the one guiding the ship,
or if an otherworldly stowaway
had thrown a line to me

and I was waiting for someone
to pull me in, to pull me under.

2.

It’s easy enough to step that one step forward and fall
endlessly away from the troubles that trouble the world
around me, around you, around us all.

To take that one step away from the edge and fall
back into all the divisions and ills that plague this world,
that step is the hardest step of all.

Whichever way I choose to move I know that I will fall
upon a high wire stretched between the precipice of a world
I will come to know all in all

and the precipice of a world that every day seems ready to fall.

3.

The sight of my reflection
waving from the cell of a mirrored
windowpane stops me in my tracks
as I walk alone to work.

I wave back. My reflection
motions for me to join him.
Over both our heads, dark clouds
shift and churn in opposite directions.

Before I take another step, I must
decide if the blood that broken glass
will draw from shredded flesh
is worth the chance to learn

who lives on the other side of who I am.

4.

We occupy a liminal space.
One of us stands, the other sits. We exist

together, apart,

not quite shadows, not quite
reflections.

Reflections
exist as both the same and other,

reversed, opposite.

One of us stands, the other sits. We exist
in an endless liminal space.

5.

I have sometimes posed
myself in a final repose
just to know the shape of death.

And now, after years
of loneliness, I am too weak
to lift my head to see

if any pose I ever struck
actually matched the contours
of my body as I slowly

drift away.

*

Kip Knott’s first collection of short stories, Some Birds Nest in Broken Branches, is available from Alien Buddha Press. His most recent full-length book of poetry, Clean Coal Burn, is available from Kelsay Books. You can follow him on Twitter at @kip_knott and read more of his writing at kipknott.com.

*

I would like to offer my thanks to Aron Wiesenfeld for creating the powerful and evocative artwork that inspired this poem. The following five paintings were particularly inspirational:

· “Study” (2020)
· “The Pit” (2019)
· “Morning” (2002)
· “Hallway” (1999)
· “Chris McCandless” (2003)

Blurred Sky by Cathleen Cohen

Flowering Cherry by Cathleen Cohen

Blurred Sky
       For Peter

Sky swoons
as gray as old slate boards

or stones on graves.
Forsythia flash caution

against massed clouds,
backdrop to mourning.

Our brother evanesced
this day, decades back.

Shouldn’t grief mute?

A weeping cherry jostles
center stage, like a bridesmaid,

intent on the bouquet.
The neighbors planted it

when their daughter was born,
frothy hybrid, always flouncing.

Each year I try and fail
to paint its blooms

against insistent spring light.
Maybe this year

I can bear to see it clearly
against a blurred sky.

*

Author’s Note:

Our brother, Peter Krueger, died of AIDS at age 32 in the early days of the epidemic, in the spring of 1988. A talented man who loved life and art, he was an expert in European furniture at Christie’s auction house. Spurred by love for him, our family worked to build a clinic in his name at Beth Israel Mt Sinai in NYC for those with HIV. Each spring I write poems in his memory. He is always with me.

*

Cathleen Cohen was the 2019 Poet Laureate of Montgomery County, PA. A poet, painter and teacher, she created the We the Poets program for children (www.theartwell.org.) Her poems appear in journals such as Apiary, Baltimore Review, Cagibi, East Coast Ink, North of Oxford, One Art Journal, Passager, Philadelphia Stories, Rockvale Review, Rogue Agent and Toho Journal. She authored Camera Obscura (Moonstone Press, 2017), Etching the Ghost (Atmosphere Press, 2021) and Sparks and Disperses (Cornerstone Press, 2021.) Her artwork is on view at Cerulean Arts Gallery (www.ceruleanarts.com) and www.cathleencohenart.com.

Three Poems by Jane Ann Fuller

At the Corner of Orchard and Second

In 1989, I lived in a duplex, mid-fix, 9 months
pregnant while the man I married drove

206 miles one way twice a week to weld continuous
Rail for CSX. One room was a peninsula of windows

that leaked heat but leveraged light like
a crystal, so I begged him not to board it up. He smelled

of diesel fuel and I could hear his Jetta turn
the corner of our block when he was back

for pork chops, chocolate pie and sex.
When he was home he mostly slept

or plumbed the crooked floors or punched
out horse-hair plaster walls or left

at 2:00 pm for pulled pork sandwiches
and cans of Busch. Sometimes I’d leave

to find him laughing on a bar stool.
Everyone said what a good woman

I was. We believed together
we’d make something better

of the rooms we’d soon rent out.
When you work and ask for nothing

more, you think you’re right. One night
the baby head-butted me on the bridge

of my nose and someone came right out
and asked who threw the punch.

Today, I run my palm against the grain of velvet
of a doe that stands outside my house. The doe is real.

Its coat, soft as air. I lied about the proximity of hands.

*

Everything’s a Version of You

We thought it might be dead. Remember,
when the bat got in? Trapped
in the shower, it circled the glass, clung
with suction cup thumbs,
dropped like a rag.

I don’t know what we thought.
So, we shut off lights, opened doors.
Through the moonlit kitchen
into the foyer, quick as it entered,
—out it flew.

It’s been twenty years since
you left the house, drove
until first light, found a place
to die on Tick Ridge. You could have been
sleeping in that grove of hickories.

Bats still cloud our streetlamp like
the opening of a cave. Stars slide into
constellations I try to name. Everything,
a version of you here: the bat, little Lazarus
lifts from the floor into a black

sky shot with stars. Once chained,
Andromeda’s a galaxy, freed.
Dead, how brightly, she
courses for a billion years
toward me.

*

The End Of Winter

When I think about the end
of us, I’m chopping onions.
In the distance, a train on the tin horizon
blows across tracks where I could be waiting,
holding my paisley suitcase.

In February, snow knows no boundaries,
blankets us in oblivion. We like it
at first, being tucked in, immobilized
by our lack of control, kick into survival mode.
Portable propane heater. Check.
Coleman lantern, check.
Things seem possible.

When rain begins, ice pelts the ground,
6-8 inches of snow. I’m peppering the roast
when the lights go out and everything powers down.

While we wait for men in cherry pickers to reach us,
we tell stories in the near dark.
I barely conjure the blizzard of ’78,
but you say you’ll never forget
snow stacked so high it reaches the eaves.
You have to tunnel out.

As if what happens, happens twice,
my story of the storm is a white field,
days blown with a random neighbor kid
the winter before the summer
I met the first boy who broke my heart.
I was 14. We both played trumpet in the high school band.
I hear he has twins and isn’t sure he loves his wife.

It’s never the end until you say it is. Darkness holds
us to the heat of love, blankets doubled over like a rug.
In the cold arms of a weigela, a fat cardinal sings.

Scoops of seed, cakes of fat start the frenzy.
Starlings in their midnight feathers, linen finches
flit from suet cage to barren tree, sing their tinny tune of survival.
All they seem to know is survival. Pretty little savages.

*

Jane Ann Fuller’s poems have appeared in such journals as The American Journal of Poetry, Shenandoah, Still: the Journal, The MacGuffin, jmww, Atticus Review, Sugar House Review, Waccamaw, Northern Appalachia Review, Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel, Rise Up Review, and elsewhere, and in such anthologies as I Thought I Heard A Cardinal Sing, All We Know of Pleasure: Poetic Erotica by Women, and It Starts With Hope, (The Center for Victims of Torture). Her collection, Half-Life, was published in 2021 by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions.

Temporary List of Inquietudes by Nicole Rollender

Temporary List of Inquietudes

Wild rabbits ravaging our ripening strawberries
Our son asks how long they’ll live: the red berries dripping in sun
& rabbits. We explain there’s a season for all of us
In a month the strawberry stems wilt & brown back into the earth
In a year, the oldest rabbit curls himself into the dirt
His fur & bones wreckage for burial or shoveling away
This way, we open our son’s memories to longing
That day, I was happy
That day, I remember the light warming the top of my head
The world shows its face in the rabbit’s shadow
His tears for not picking the half-eaten strawberry
The teeth marks like the brokenness we all learn
A cloud moving the sun’s face
Our son looks up: Maybe rain’s coming
More strawberries will grow
There’s still time to taste this sunlight in the berries
We wanted to teach him that living’s what we desire
Despite the destruction in the garden & inside our bodies
The rabbits live in the sun such a short time
& the berries & the sound of bells & our sorrows

*

A 2017 NJ Council on the Arts poetry fellow, Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry collection, Louder Than Everything You Love (Five Oaks Press), and four poetry chapbooks. She has won poetry prizes from Palette Poetry, Gigantic Sequins, CALYX Journal and Ruminate Magazine. Her work appears in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Ninth Letter, Puerto del Sol, Salt Hill Journal and West Branch, among many other journals. Nicole is managing editor of THRUSH Poetry Journal, and holds an MFA from the Pennsylvania State University. She’s also co-founder and CEO of Strand Writing Services. Visit her online: www.nicolemrollender.com.

SLICE OF MORNING by Mary Elder Jacobsen

SLICE OF MORNING

I’m waking to a sky
dark as chocolate ganache
swirled by the great baker,
her sparkly spatula,
her flourish of icing,
between bright coconut-
fluff layers of snow days
she’s stacked up one by one,
yesterday then today,
and soon I remember
the slice of cake sent home
after last night’s party
and I’m up like the sun,
first to rise out of bed
down the dim-lit stairwell
followed by the dog, star
of our world. How is it
he can beg shamelessly
for more? His bowl is full.
We are not unalike
after all. Let me slice
this last piece of sweet cake
in half and leave the rest.
Let me keep wanting more.

*

Mary Elder Jacobsen’s poetry appears widely in online and print publications, most recently in The Greensboro Review, The American Journal of Poetry, and the anthology The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy, edited by James Crews. A recipient of a Vermont Studio Center residency, she holds graduate degrees from The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and UNC-Greensboro. She lives in Vermont, where she is a freelance editor, a community volunteer, and Coordinator of Words Out Loud, an annual reading series held at a still-unplugged 1823 meetinghouse.