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.

Two Poems by Adam Chiles

Inheritance

My mother found the dog rooting through
the mulch out back, nosing rotten cabbage leaves.
A blood shot eye. Need pushed deep into its nostrils.
What could she do but love the animal,
this famished stray, dirt steeled firm to its skin.
She nursed the creature back. Took to the fells
each day. Wandered the gravel paths
above the stacks and kilns, happy to be absent
from the tempers of that house. It didn’t last.
Her father kicked the animal out one night.
Snatched his supper plate and slammed it
against the wall. My mother rubs her arm
as she speaks. Eighty years on, she still feels it,
that sting, that phantom shard of porcelain.

*

Widower

Weekends, he parks his bike at the oak
and eases through the chapel turnstile.
As usual, a satchel slung over his back
filled with clippers, trowels, a bunch of
wildflowers. He walks to her plot, takes
out his tools and begins, digging out
a thin trench of soil, trimming its frame.
And what else can he do for her now
but this weekly crop and mend. His face
lost to a rampant beard. Below him,
daffodils, their ceaseless gold alarms.

*

Adam Chiles’ latest collection Bluff will be published by Measure Press this Summer. His work has been anthologized in Best New Poets 2006 (Samovar) and has appeared in numerous journals including Barrow Street, Beloit Poetry Journal, Cimarron Review, Copper Nickel, Cortland Review, Connotation Press, Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, The Literary Review, Magma, Permafrost, RHINO, The Threepenny Review and Thrush Poetry Review. He is professor of English and Creative Writing at Northern Virginia Community College and serves on the editorial board at Poet Lore.

Two Poems by Stan Sanvel Rubin

The Way I Miss You

In daytime when light plays over us
even from this all-gray winter sky,
something else is dancing.

It’s always there, the hidden thing
that makes everything possible.
This is how I miss you.

It isn’t that the moon
slips inside a sleeve of night
and vanishes so that anything I see

is a partial thing defined by darkness.
The universe itself that transmits light
hides in the gravity of darkness.

I don’t miss the light.
I miss the shadow
that was our shadow.

*

The Sea Is A Grief

Listen to the old accordion
making sad music
with bones and pebbles,
countless secrets
like hidden predators.

The sea grieves for its secrets,
which are those of a small boy
watching the waves rise and fall
from a pier where a horse dives
with a star-spangled rider

into the foamy water
and emerges in front of the boy’s own eyes
still carrying the woman in the wet shining cap
who leads it back to plunge again
from the high pier into the sea.

*

Stan Sanvel Rubin has poems recently in 2 River, Sheila-na-gig and Aji and has been previously published in Agni, Georgia Review, Poetry Northwest, One and others. His four full collections include There. Here (Lost Horse Press) and Hidden Sequel (Barrow Street Book Prize). He lives on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington. He writes essay reviews of poetry for Water-Stone Review.