Driving My Granddaughter Back to Her Dad’s House by Susan Vespoli

Driving My Granddaughter Back to Her Dad’s House

trees covered
with blossoms toss
shade over bus stops. Yellow
palo verde and purple jacaranda
offering refuge to roofless beings
on a street where my son
was roused from sleep
by a cop, then shot
on his last

carts piled with
blankets, plastic bags,
a man holding a cardboard
sign at the stoplight: HUNGRY.
People huddled in the shadow
of the onramp. A roadside
altar: flowers and
a wooden

I drop
into a litany
of what I might
have done differently
until Molly points and shouts, Look!
from her car seat. Two massive
trees backlit in sunlight,
lavender and gold
like wind


Susan Vespoli is a poet from Phoenix, AZ. Susan’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Anti-Heroin Chic, New Verse News, Mom Egg Review, Gyroscope Review, and others. She is the author of Blame It on the Serpent (Finishing Line Press, Jan. 2022) and Cactus as Bad Boy (Kelsay Books, 2023). https://susanvespoli.com/

Brain Tonic by Luke Stromberg

Brain Tonic
        for John Foy

Like my grandmother before me, I like to drink
A refreshing can of Coca Cola for breakfast
It’s part of my arrested development.
Sadly, I never developed a taste for coffee,
A classic marker of maturity,
Like when a girl gets her first training bra.
I do enjoy the occasional hot tea
(With too much sugar and milk), but I prefer
To keep it low class. Don’t misunderstand—
It’s not a political gesture, just my “truth.”
I find the initial sip of carbonated
Sweetness akin to the lost ritual
Of that first frosty-morning drag from a Camel,
Both pleasures sneered at by the professional class.
My uncle once compared smokers to Jews
In Nazi Germany! The comparison
Was, as the kids would say, “problematic,”
But health can be a form of tyranny,
I guess…What was I talking about again?

Ah, yes! Healthful, delicious Coca Cola!
“The Intellectual Drink,” “The Ideal Brain Tonic,”
Said to relieve exhaustion and calm the nerves,
To satisfy the thirsty and help the weary.
Like Trump, I drink several cans a day
And sometimes feel powerless with rage.
I’m sorry (sort of) for these affinities
But overwhelmed by social change and struggling
To gain purchase, I’ve turned to Coca Cola.
On an airplane one time, a woman asked
If I could try to be less animated.
I was relating a story to a friend,
You see, and am excitable by nature.
…Ah, I am exhausted, so exhausted…
Beat down by politics, divorce, and failure,
The past few months have been a son-of-a-bitch.
I’d like the world to buy me a Coke, for once,
And keep me company. It’s the real thing
That I want today, the real thing, the real thing.


Luke Stromberg’s poetry and criticism have appeared in Smartish Pace, The Hopkins Review, The New Criterion, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Golidad Review, Think Journal, The Raintown Review, The Dark Horse, Cassandra Voices, and several other venues. He also serves as the Associate Poetry Editor of E-Verse Radio. Luke works as an adjunct professor at Eastern University and La Salle University and lives in Upper Darby, PA.