Three Poems by J. C. Todd

Forced From Home

A bloom, the season’s first,
today, and a half-dozen buds
topping stems that shoot up
from a ruff of trefoil leaves.

Thirty-five years in a window box,
this single plant that once flourished
and seeded itself along the border
of a garden someone else now tends.

Thirty-five years in box,
one foot wide, three feet long,
one foot deep, reseeding
a single companion

to tilt with it toward the sun’s
narrow threading down
past shingle, brick, and siding,
into the arid, shadowed grove

of urban structures
where this migrant
has been transplanted.
Soil boosted, composted,

watered, mulched, and tended,
everything that can be done
to make a home for it, although
a holding cell is not a home.


Home as a Foreign Place

what’s been torn down
I revisit through language
a language of longing, solo
speaker, rooms empty of her
listening, except in memory
where I, having lived on
reassemble in sound
a monoculture of loss


Zemaitijos Gatve, Vilnius

I walk into their stairwell
where they passed up and down,
the granite steps dished out and chipped
by generations who went before them,
books tucked under arms—
books of prayer, laws, poems,
books of history, science, and tales
that made their way from mouth to page,
from air to ink, weighty books
tucked under coats for protection,
padding the hollows of bellies
in the starving times of winter or war.
Packed into five floors of flats, they shivered
and sweated, ate and argued, prayed and rested
and read, and then they were gone.
The gates to the ghetto were opened.
They were driven out, herded into trucks
and rail cars. 1943. You know this story, don’t you?

I’m looking back to where I can’t have been,
wishing for a girl or boy who reads them
out of the terrible dark that’s closing in.


J. C. Todd is the author of Beyond Repair, (2021) a special selection for the Able Muse Press Book Award, and The Damages of Morning (Moonstone Press (2018), a finalist for the 2019 Eric Hoffer Award, as well as chapbooks and collaborative artist books. She is one of ten winners in the 2021 National Poetry Competition of the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom. Winner of the 2016 Rita Dove Poetry Prize, with fellowships from the Pew Foundation and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, she is a poet with the Dodge Poetry Program, Murphy Writing of Stockton University, and leads independent poetry workshops.

Three Poems by Michael J Carter

Ghost Bus: Iiyama, Nabekura Plateau, Nagano Prefecture

A bus still runs its full route,
on roads cut through rice
and asparagus fields, the driver
still generates a pension
impeccable in his serious uniform
and white driving gloves. We all wave
when he drives away, Japanese style
two-handed, broad palmed. The only secure
bit of the language I’ve acquired in one day.
Our host tells us that no one ever boards
the bus, it remains empty all day,
every day, but keeps running
as a monument to the hope
of revitalization like that part
of me that remembers to call
my dad before I remember
that he’s dead. Sometimes,
I even say, Oh shit, its Sunday
I have to call him when
I get home. My dad’s favorite story
about his own father is how once a month
his dad would put on his suit and
go to the bank to pay off the loan
on the farm that failed. Ghost money
paying for a ghost farm, tilling
a future, seed pods empty as this bus,
prompt and hopeful.


Smell the Lilacs

Clicked on the burner
for tea and walked outside
to smell the lilacs at the end
of the driveway. An old craggy
bush, neglected by the landlords,
with both white and purple blossoms.
They opened yesterday
the same day I received
a note from my sister:
I just wanted you to know
that Mom’s headstone
was placed yesterday
at her grave. All day
The rain came in bursts,
grief-like, and now the sun
is setting over a saturated field—
bright green, shadow green,
a crab-apple tree is gussied up
in spring pinks wrapped
in a factory of bees rebuilding
the world. Then I went back
in to make tea, sat by the window,
and let it go cold.


Resurrection: Back Home

I brought you back to life
and then I called you
celebrating the miracle of your rebirth.
You were alive, the way you were.
You said, I’m watching your father hang pictures…
That was the deal, he did that while you rested
but you were tired, wanted off the phone
and Dad was busy.


Michael J Carter is a poet and clinical social worker. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College he holds an MFA from Vermont College and an MSW from Smith. Poems of his have appeared in such journals as Boulevard, Ploughshares, Provincetown Arts Magazine, Western Humanities Review, among many others. He lives with his two hounds and spends his time swimming and knitting.