She used to lie down in the field
and listen to the horses talking—
squeals, snorts, nickers, neighs
plus ear language, turns and twists
They told jokes to each other
made me feel like part of the family
my almost-sister told me years later
I live on an island, she says, literally
but also metaphorically
And still with animals, chickens
and dogs now and a crow named Luis
all talking to her, telling her
stories and secrets
We’re all alive together, she says
I picture her swathed in feathers
and fur, turning an ear to the bubbly
talk of the fish who circle her island
all alive together
Sally Zakariya’s poetry has appeared in some 80 print and online journals and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her most recent publication is Something Like a Life (Gyroscope Press). She is also the author of Muslim Wife, The Unknowable Mystery of Other People, Personal Astronomy, When You Escape, Insectomania, and Arithmetic and other verses, as well as the editor of a poetry anthology, Joys of the Table. Zakariya blogs at www.butdoesitrhyme.com.
On a hike up the back mountain
my mother told me a story of a goose
shot down from the sky by a hunter’s single bullet:
its mate, stunned by the death of his beloved,
hurled himself headfirst into the rocks below
at dizzying speed, yielding the hunter two geese —
I can only picture the weight of his bounty that day.
Some of us never know when
just enough becomes too much
exactly how much pressure it requires
to hold a heart in your cupped hands, still
frantic from overuse, cool and slick
with the aftermath of someone else’s longing
Melody Wang currently resides in sunny Southern California with her dear husband. In her free time, she dabbles in piano composition and also enjoys hiking, baking, and playing with her dogs. She can be found on Twitter @MelodyOfMusings.
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
In those moments I fumbled in the dark
you were the dog from the Atsugewi tale
bringing back fire cupped in coal-black ears,
lop-tips parrying buffets of rain
while you suffered pain sparks to burrow overnight,
pawing the coals out for me to cook with
once morning stole in. Then you disappear
from the telling, like a fire left to burn down:
the people praise the food and go out hunting.
How still you stood, the bright weave behind your eyes
letting no light escape.
Midwinter saw a tug-of-war, my son
pulling me into the womb he wouldn’t leave.
When we first came home I had expected you
to wonder at the miracle—me, baby;
but after one sniff you gave him a wide berth
and lay Sphinx-pawed, back to the open doorway.
Conscientious objector? Ceding your place?
Standing guard? I suspect you didn’t know
yourself what instinct had kicked in, and with it
lassitude, ennui you’d always known
just what to do. Not me.
Rebecca Starks is the author of the poetry collections Time Is Always Now, a finalist for the 2019 Able Muse Book Award, and Fetch, Muse (forthcoming from Able Muse Press), and is the recipient of Rattle’s 2018 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor. Her poems and short fiction have appeared in Valparaiso Review, Crab Orchard Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Slice, and elsewhere. She lives in Richmond, Vermont.
Is there a newsreel, dear?,
Mom asks in the darkened cinema, her voice bubbly,
and I want to tell her there are no newsreels anymore—
Edsels are gone and flying DeLoreans are coming—
but I know for her newsreels are
breathing buttered popcorn,
I feel my hand clenching under my seat’s arm,
picking at dried bubble gum, and
I don’t want her to hear sirens, so, as the screen flickers, I, smiling though tightened jaws,
whisper back, No newsreel today, Mom.
Brian O’Sullivan teaches rhetoric and English literature in southern Maryland. He has published in Everyday Fiction and in academic non-fiction periodicals, including KB and Studies in American Humor.
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
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.
A Poet’s Mother Dies from Covid
No one inherits eloquent words nor leases the brilliance
of a perfect sonnet transcribed onto parchment in blue ink.
I speak no language that elevates each syllable so that every
word will be remembered alongside the dead.
It is a myth that poets possess inexhaustible grace
and passion, or feel more deeply than other human bodies.
There is no hidden box, dovetailed jointed, stained and polished,
that holds the perfect magic of metaphor and meter.
There is only a man standing mute over granite,
only a boy who misses his mom.
Le Hinton is the author of six poetry collections including, most recently, Sing Silence (Iris G. Press, 2018). His work can be found or is forthcoming in The Best American Poetry 2014, The Progressive Magazine, the Skinny Poetry Journal, The Baltimore Review, The Pittsburgh Review, and outside Clipper Magazine Stadium in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
I’ve broken so
that the word
as well be father.
I love you, fracture…
Each cast was
a coffin, and home
room, a kind of wake
where the mourners
signed my body.
Punning, the doctor
said, “You’re all set!”
needs a foster
Ralph James Savarese is the author of three collections of poetry: Republican Fathers; When This Is Over; and, with Stephen Kuusisto, Someone Falls Overboard: Talking through Poems.
I circle among my dead,
trying not to neglect anyone.
What can I say of those
I have never known?
Even my mother eludes me,
her mind ever hidden
in shadows. We all flee
when we imagine danger,
acquiring a taste
for what can be carried,
the weight of the unrisen.
*honoring the dead
To wash dust from jagged leaves
I turn the hose on the hibiscus.
Shriveled flowers fall to dirt,
water drips into soil, roots
reach for a sip, when suddenly
a moth, its rusty wings heavy
with moisture, fanning the same water
into steam, flutters to the earth,
damned while new buds open.
Some feel my intentions as mercy,
others nearly drown.
Betsy Mars practices poetry, photography, pet maintenance, and publishes an occasional anthology through Kingly Street Press. Her second anthology, Floored, is now available on Amazon. In 2020, her poem was selected as a winner in Alexandria Quarterly´s first line poetry contest series. In addition, she was a semi-finalist in the Jack Grapes poetry contest as well as the Poetry Super Highway annual contest. Her work has recently appeared in Sky Island Journal, Kissing Dynamite, Better Than Starbucks, and Gyroscope among others. She is the author of Alinea (Picture Show Press) and co-author of In the Muddle of the Night with Alan Walowitz (Arroyo Seco Press).