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

Two Poems by Donna Hilbert

Rosemary

You are the rosemary I add to the soup:
how you pressed pungent bristles
between thumb and finger,
how you lay sprigs atop red potatoes
glistening in olive oil, salt,
house alive with the fragrance
of vegetables roasting
on any given day of the week.

1,095 days past your death, young one,
I sometimes escape the earthquake
of absence upon awakening,
but daily remembrance, I never escape:
today, it was rosemary, yesterday,
blue sea glass washed up at my feet.

*

dent de lion

Don’t call me weed,
but love instead my golden
head dressing swards of green.

The sunshine of my flowering gone,
then love me in my second crown
of silver tuft and drifting thread.

*

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems, Tebot Bach 2018. Other books include Transforming Matter, and Traveler in Paradise, both from PEARL Editions. Her new collection, Threnody, is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press in late 2021.

Consumed by Edward Lee

CONSUMED

Grief consumes my heart,
a cancer devastating
all in its indifferent path,

almost a kissing cousin
to the cancer
that took you from me,
savage and swiftly.

*

Edward Lee’s poetry, short stories, non-fiction and photography have been published in magazines in Ireland, England and America, including The Stinging Fly, Skylight 47, Acumen, The Blue Nib and Poetry Wales. His play ‘Wall’ was part of Druid Theatre’s Druid Debuts 2020. His debut poetry collection “Playing Poohsticks On Ha’Penny Bridge” was published in 2010. He is currently working towards a second collection.

He also makes musical noise under the names Ayahuasca Collective, Orson Carroll, Lego Figures Fighting, and Pale Blond Boy.

His blog/website can be found at https://edwardmlee.wordpress.com

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.

Unwelcome by Ann E. Michael

Unwelcome

The caller
was
a stranger
soliciting
I don’t
know what
I told her
this
is not
a good time
my father
is dying
and
I hung up.
Now
as night
recedes
I find my
self awake
I think of
him
dying
and how
I was
unkind
to that young
woman
in a call
center
a stranger
I failed
to welcome
into
my heart.

*
Ann E. Michael lives in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, slightly west of where the Lehigh River meets the Delaware. Her most recent collection of poems is Barefoot Girls. Her next book, The Red Queen Hypothesis, will be published sometime in 2021. More info at www.annemichael.wordpress.com

Two Poems by Faith Paulsen

Mother-in-Law

Invited to call her Mom, silently I called her Umbrella in Sunshine
Flea-Market Wristwatch Three Phone Calls A Day
Flash Flood Warning.
Why take a chance?
The cat will suck the breath out of the baby.
Spare Room Hoarder of get-well cards and flashlights
bottles of sleeping pills. (They’re not habit-forming – I should know,
I’ve been taking them for years.)
She called me Broken Eggs Hamster in a Plastic Ball.
Half-hour Early/Ten Minutes Late
She called me Barefoot in Snow–
That name I kept.
Years after her death
I wake stunned
when others call me Worry and I respond Be Safe.
Please don’t do
anything stupid.
Call it Poetic Justice. Call me So soon?
I call myself, I Didn’t Know—

*

My Mother’s Pessary *

Was she buried with it, I wonder?
That pinky-ball that for years supported
the vault over my begetting? My fault,
we used to joke.
Large baby, traumatic birth,
long-awaited longed-for,
late, costly.

Decades later, I witnessed
the price paid in her halting gait,
weary eyes (blue green like mine)
seeking a bench so she could sit down.
This is not like you, Mom.

Then it was I who supported
undressed, lifted. Even though
I was by then several times a mother —
I did not know this secret toll
that there could be this
late-in-life weight in the pelvis
pregnancy of years
this falling through
her overstretched muscles
falter, fail, a curtain’s elasticity lost
turned inside-out like a sock.

Attended, midwife to my mother’s aging
counted her breaths
an inexorable roller coaster inverted
dangles on the verge of dive-drop,
ripening
her tummy measured to house this blushing little thing
that for the last years of her life plugged up the dam
and kept the sky from falling.

* A therapeutic pessary is a medical device most commonly used to treat prolapse of the uterus.

*

Faith Paulsen’s work has appeared in Ghost City Press, Seaborne, and Book of Matches, as well as Thimble Literary Magazine, Evansville Review, Mantis, Psaltery and Lyre, and Terra Preta, among others. Her work also appears in the anthologies Is it Hot in Here or Is It Just Me? (Social Justice Anthologies) and 50/50: Poems & Translations by Womxn over 50 (QuillsEdge). She has been nominated for a Pushcart, and her chapbook A Color Called Harvest (Finishing Line Press) was published in 2016. A second chapbook, Cyanometer, is expected in 2021.

On the Day After You Left This World by Heather Swan

On the Day After You Left This World

I floated out to the island
of bird bones, where
their long gone songs
now whisper in the cattails,
looking for solitude, solace,
but found instead
three cranes waiting
who let me join them
there on the shore,
their heads tipping
toward me, toward the
sounds of geese from
across the lake, toward
the jet plane flying overhead.
Night fell and we stayed—
all of us—cranes, crickets,
cattails, me with my broken body
breathing, and in the graying light
the breeze stroked
the cool waters of the lake,
the water lapping the mud
until all of it
was not separate, all of it
became one breath.

*

Heather Swan is the author of a new collection of poems, A Kinship with Ash (Terrapin Books) and the nonfiction book, Where Honeybees Thrive: Stories from the Field (Penn State Press), winner of the Sigurd F. Olson Nature Writing Award. Her nonfiction has appeared in Aeon, Belt, Catapult, Minding Nature, ISLE, The Learned Pig, Edge Effects and is forthcoming in Terrain and Emergence. Her poetry has appeared in Poet Lore, The Hopper, Phoebe, Cold Mountain Review, Midwestern Gothic, The Raleigh Review and several anthologies. She has been the recipient of the Martha Meyer Renk Fellowship in Poetry and the August Derleth Prize. She teaches writing and environmental literature at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Two Poems by Kara Knickerbocker

Grief Animal

Some days it is a pair of pearl earrings
I pick from my jewelry box
and put on like I’ve been taught.

But most days,
like today,
my grief breathes on its own,

chews through its leash—

carries me in its large mouth into
yet another ruthless month.

*

Hues of Havana
Cuba, August 2018

I can tell you how the golden hour is different here—
burnt heat cakes sidewalk streets,
swirled grit of city minutes
rush by in a cherry Chevy convertible.

In pastel facades, where laundry lines connect worn fabrics to faces
Havana beats blues back in time,
history written slow into this Saturday morning;
she beats on, ribcaged between all of us.

*

Kara Knickerbocker is the author of the chapbooks The Shedding Before the Swell (dancing girl press, 2018) and Next to Everything that is Breakable (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poetry and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming from: Poet Lore, Hobart, Levee Magazine, and more. She currently lives in Pennsylvania and writes with the Madwomen in the Attic at Carlow University. Find her online: http://www.karaknickerbocker.com.

Two Poems by Mark Saba

Flowers in the Dark

The young man holding flowers
delivered our food in three boxes.
Loose potatoes and apples, lettuce

partially wrapped beside a box of butter,
berries, almonds, and Greek cheese.
He wasn’t sure which flowers we liked

so bought three: one, wrapped tulips
and two alstroemeria. Did we like
the purple or peach? He stood

in his buttoned rust jacket, a shadow
of the boy who graduated with my son
six years ago, now a generation

of wise old youth holding flowers
for their elders. Which one don’t you want
he asked. It will look nice

in my apartment. He stood there
six feet away in the dark
having delivered our groceries

holding a bouquet of flowers
that I’m not sure he really wanted
or knew what to do with

once back to his other world
the one without flowers
or any place to put them.

*

The Broken

My brother, my daughter, my father,
my wife. A cloudy eye, piece of leg
and vanishing arm.

An asymmetry in stride, an upbeat cheek
adjacent to uncertain lips.
The visitors come whole, hoping to embrace

the broken pieces of those they’d once known
but have been disassembled
as they try to reconstruct.

Outside, under searing light,
the rehab grounds remain dressed
in autumn finery: greens and golds

atop fiery trees, a harboring mountain,
glass-walled rooms that look out
and allow a looking in. My son,

my husband, my sister, my dear friend.
We hold the pieces of you
and let the pieces fall.

*

Mark Saba has been writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction for 40 years. His book publications include four works of fiction and three of poetry, most recently Two Novellas: A Luke of All Ages / Fire and Ice (fiction), Calling the Names (poetry) and Ghost Tracks (stories about Pittsburgh, where he grew up). Saba’s work has appeared widely in literary magazines around the U.S. and abroad. His is also a painter, and works as a medical illustrator at Yale University. Please see marksabawriter.com.

Two Poems by Courtney LeBlanc

POEM FOR NEW YEAR’S DAY

I’m lucky to have good neighbors, the kind
who pull your garbage bins in when you’re out
of town or gather your mail. This summer
I exchanged cucumbers from my garden
for mint from hers. And to have the kind
of neighbors who deliver a bouquet
of bright yellow buttercups when my dad
died, with a note filled with such kindness
I started crying all over again. And isn’t
that what the world needs right now, a little
more kindness? Because last night the ball
dropped and everyone held their breath
and made a wish, the world collectively hoping
that this year will be better than the last.
I started the first day of this new year with
a long walk with my dog, her anxiety
non-existent on these empty country roads.
And the few cars that passed contained
people who raised their palms in hello,
greeting me as if we were old friends, as if
they would happily accept cucumbers
from my garden, grab the package
at my front door, and deliver compassion
in the face of grief. They waved and I waved
back, this small act of kindness between
strangers, this small bit of hope carrying
us into the new year.

*

FOR MY SISTER, WHO TURNED 40 ELEVEN DAYS AFTER OUR FATHER DIED

We planned on Ireland, a week of lush
green and rolling hills, castles and seductive,
indecipherable accents. I would drive
and you would navigate. We’d hike and drink
Guinness, laugh and sleep late. Instead
we took turns holding our father’s hand,
the hum of the hospital and piped-in
Muzak, the soundtrack. After a week, we
brought him home, moved him close
to the picture window in the living room,
let the sun shine onto his skin as he gulped
for air and I pushed morphine into his cheek.
When he died we circled around his bed,
touched his cooling skin, wiped our tears
on the white sheets. Our father never left
the country, never had a passport, never
graduated high school. He left
the adventuring to us, his two youngest
daughters, the ones who flew farthest
from the nest. Let’s pull out calendars
and make plans. We’ll go next year,
or in five. We’ll explore the whole damn
world, we’ll see everything he never did.

*

Courtney LeBlanc is the author of Beautiful & Full of Monsters (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), chapbooks All in the Family (Bottlecap Press) and The Violence Within (Flutter Press). She is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Riot in Your Throat, an independent poetry press. She loves nail polish, tattoos, and a soy latte each morning. Read her publications on her blog: www.wordperv.com. Follow her on twitter: @wordperv, and IG: @wordperv79.