‘Aubade For My 18-Year-Old Son As I Wonder What He Will Do With His Life Besides Playing Video Games’ by Susan Michele Coronel

Aubade For My 18-Year-Old Son As I Wonder What He Will Do With His Life Besides Playing Video Games

He says college is a waste of time,
& maybe it’s true if it takes ten hours
to write a paragraph about why college
is valuable. The irony. But he stays up
all night to make a hundred bucks helping
others level up on Destiny. I want him to
level up in life, but the keyboard is glued
to his fingers, mouse clicking like termites
scratching under the floor. Brain pulses
confine him to his room, warmed not by
electricity or the moon’s afterglow, but
by dopamine hits every game bestows. The sun
streams in, but can’t interrupt the divine blue
that soothes, that affirms I know, I know.


Susan Michele Coronel was nominated twice for a Pushcart. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications including Spillway 29, TAB Journal, Inflectionist Review, Gyroscope Review, Prometheus Dreaming, and Thimble. Her first full-length manuscript was a finalist in Harbor Editions’ 2021 Laureate Prize. She lives in New York City with her children.

One Poem by Leigh Chadwick

Millennial Poem or: How I Learned to Stop Drinking Starbucks and Wait Patiently for My Parents to Die so I Can Cash in on My Inheritance

I put another avocado in my safety deposit box.
I sell my plasma and save half the cookie
the nurse gives me for breakfast the next morning.
I am poor and so are you and if you’re not poor
then who did you kill. My loans have loans.
My daughter is growing up to be a history
lesson in debt. I own a house and I don’t
know why. Soon I will not own a house
and I will know exactly why. I’ve never eaten
avocado toast but I drink milk without the lactose
and it’s like forty-two cents more a gallon
than regular milk. I type stock market into
Google Maps. It takes me to a set of train tracks.
I park my car in the middle of the tracks, turn
off the engine and wait.


Leigh Chadwick is the author of the chapbook, Daughters of the State (Bottlecap Press, 2021), the poetry coloring book, This Is How We Learn How to Pray (ELJ Editions, 2021), and the full-length collection, Wound Channels (ELJ Edition, 2022). Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Salamander, Heavy Feather Review, Indianapolis Review, and Olney Magazine, among others. Find her on Twitter at @LeighChadwick5.

My Heart is a Shattered Windshield by Victoria Melekian

My Heart is a Shattered Windshield

Four o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon, I’ve driven
three hours to a Best Western in the crappy part of town
for my son’s doctor appointment in the morning.
The desk clerk asks if I’m here on business or pleasure.

I look at the mangled Von’s grocery cart in the empty parking lot
through smudges on the glass lobby door. “Pleasure,” I say,
but the truth is neither. Untreated, my son’s life expectancy
is two point eight years. His disease can be managed,

but not cured, and the cost of medication is near impossible.
The truth is we’ve waited thirteen months for insurance
approval to see this specialist. The truth is I’m a howling
windstorm of fear—my boy is thirty-seven, not even middle aged.

I don’t yet know there is hope, that tomorrow the doctor will reach
into a drawer and toss my son a six-thousand-dollar miracle drug,
a bottle of pills lobbed across his desk like a red and yellow
beach ball sailing through a shimmering summer sky.


Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California where the weather is almost always perfect. She writes poetry and short fiction. You can read her work here: www.victoriamelekian.com

After My Father Died by Sara Backer

After My Father Died

I longed to spend time with him in a dream
but over two years passed without one. I’m afraid I’ll forget
how he whistled Cole Porter and the way he squeezed
his eyes when he stuttered on Ws. When a dream came at last,
I heard his voice—but couldn’t see him.
I looked around: an outdoor festival, stage tents, musicians.
My sister waited in one of the tents. My father, invisible,
said I could continue to hear him or I could be with my sister.
The choice was presented like chicken or fish—no other options,
I couldn’t have both, and it was up to me.
I looked beyond stages to overlapping hills streaked with mist.
Too far to see, I knew a weighty ocean rolled indifferent through its tides.
Nothing more was voiced. As I walked to the tent,
I saw my sister’s thick blue sweater on the seat beside her,
saved for me.

Sara Backer’s first book of poetry, Such Luck (Flowstone Press 2019) follows two poetry chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt (dancing girl press) and Bicycle Lotus which won the 2015 Turtle Island chapbook award. She holds an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Art and reads for The Maine Review. Recent publications include The Pedestal Magazine, Tar River Poetry, Slant, CutBank and Kenyon Review.

It Takes a Calculator to Count the Dead by Leigh Chadwick

It Takes a Calculator to Count the Dead

The sun bakes an island on the concrete.
I wake up to the smell of sulfur.
The magnolias in the yard are refusing to bloom.
I never know where to rest my hands anymore.
Between starting this poem on a Friday
and finishing it on a Monday, there have been
at least eleven more mass shootings.
I consider praying, but I was never taught how.
I dress my daughter in camouflage
and carry her from room to room. I tell her,
I’m sorry I brought you into this.
I tell her, Pretend a miracle is on its way.
I tell her, Maybe this is how we
learn how to pray.

Leigh Chadwick’s poetry and prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Salamander, Milk Candy Review, Olney Magazine, Schuylkill Valley Journal, and Bear Creek Gazette, among others. Her debut poetry collection, Wound Channels, will be published by ELJ Editions in February of 2022. Find her on Twitter at @LeighChadwick5.

One Poem by Patricia Davis-Muffett

What to do with your grief
       for Dionne, June 2020

Butter. Sugar. Flour. Salt.
I am doing what I know.

Nineteen, I call my mother crying:
“I can’t make the pie crust work,”
“Come home,” she says. “We’ll fix it.”
The ice in the water,
the fork used to mix,
the way she floured the board.
It’s chemistry, yes–
but also this:
the things you pass
from hand to hand.

9/11. Child dropped at preschool.
Traffic grinds near the White House.
A plane overhead. The Pentagon burns.
The long trek home to reclaim our child.
We are told to stay in. I venture out.
Blueberries to make a pie.

My mother, so sick. Not hungry.
For a time, she is tempted by pies.
I bring them long after taste flees.

New baby. Death. Any crisis.
I do what my mother taught me.
Butter. Sugar. Flour. Salt.
I bring this to you–this work of my hands,
this piece of my day, this sweetness,
all I can offer.

Today, Minneapolis burns
And sparks catch fire in New York,
Atlanta, here in DC.
My friend’s voice says
what I know but can’t know:
“This is my fear every time they leave me.”
Three beautiful sons, brilliant, alive.
I have little to offer. I do what I know.


Patricia Davis-Muffett (she/her) holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota. She was a 2020 Julia Darling Poetry Prize finalist and received First Honorable Mention in the 2021 Joe Gouveia OuterMost Poetry Contest. Her work has appeared in Limestone, Coal City Review, Neologism, The Orchards, One Art, Pretty Owl Poetry, di-verse-city (anthology of the Austin International Poetry Festival), The Blue Nib and Amethyst Review, among others. She lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her husband and three children and makes her living in technology marketing.

Two Poems by Nicole Caruso Garcia

In Praise of Gray

My graying hair, for now, is free of dye.
There’s darkness plenty in my alibi,
No rage against the youth-obsessed. (I’m vain.)

       I’ve reached the age my mother was if she’d been
       Roused from sleep to go identify
       My body, had I bled it. In sterile light,
       She would have clutched my father as they cried,
       Their firstborn’s hair forever chestnut brown.

My graying hair—
Hurrah!— it grows more wiry and defiant,
A crown to celebrate and testify
I’m here. And though I never can atone
For the crush of dawn they’d nearly known,
Just look: the sunlight can’t deny
My graying hair.


Easy Money

The mother made a point of telling me
that she would leave for work before the dad.
Before he left for work, we’d be alone.
So what? I’d been alone with dads before.
They’d drive me home and wave goodbye.

Easy money, and I knew the drill:
Just watch the kids. Give piggybacks.
Cut crust off PBJs. Tie shoes.
No diaper changing. Kids both potty-trained.
Braid Barbie’s hair and settle squabbles.

The mom and dad stood opposite the sofa,
gestured, Sit. The standard interview,
except arm’s length from where I sat there was
a year of Playboy fanned out on the table.
A cache of skin mags spread out like hors d’oeuvres

unnerves. Like bath time in the Barbie Dreamhouse,
there lay a mansionful of plastic flesh tones,
soaped and oiled. Act casual, I thought.
This was not my parents’ coffee table—
not Family Circle, Road & Track.

The summer of the naked harbingers.
I’d seen the whisper-pouts of lacquered mouths
and faintly heard them: Run.


Nicole Caruso Garcia is Associate Poetry Editor at Able Muse and a Board member at Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference. Her poems appear in Crab Orchard Review, DIAGRAM, Light, Measure, Mezzo Cammin, PANK, Plume, The Raintown Review, Rattle, RHINO, Sonora Review, Spillway, Tupelo Quarterly, and elsewhere. Visit her at nicolecarusogarcia.com.

Replacements by Robert Carr


I can’t do a dog, so my son’s first pet at my house
is a goldfish he names Zippy. I decorate the glass lung
of our separation. In the kitchen, orange circles –

flamingo pink pea gravel lines the bowl. Fake ferns
and a treasure chest hide a bottom feeder, the dull sucker
keeps it clean. Zippy tends to die on Fridays.

The sucker lives forever, but doesn’t have a name.
Because my son is with me twice a week,
I run out to replace Zippies before his next visit.

Whenever one goes belly up, double fins whitened
at the ends, I do my best to match the latest fish,
pray my boy won’t notice. Before we sit for supper,

Noah always asks to visit his fish friend.
I sit him on the counter, How’s Daddy doing, Zippy?
On Zippy number four, Noah cries out Daddy, look!

Zippy has a black spot on his nose! I gaze through
the far side, over a pink stone carpet. Wow! Some things
can’t be explained, I answer: He must be growing up.


Robert Carr is the author of Amaranth, published in 2016 by Indolent Books and The Unbuttoned Eye, a full-length 2019 collection from 3: A Taos Press. Among other publications his poetry appears in the American Journal of Poetry, Massachusetts Review, Rattle, Shenandoah and Tar River Poetry. Robert is a poetry editor with Indolent Books and recently retired from a career as Deputy Director for the Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Additional information can be found at robertcarr.org