Three Poems by Harrison Bae Wein

My Aunt When She Drank Scotch

Whenever my aunt babysat for us
intending to stay the night
carrying her canvas tote,
wearing white leather tennis shoes,

I would wake to her sobbing
and sneak into the guest room
where she sat on the hideaway bed,
wearing her blue men’s pajamas,

nursing a scotch, both hands
wrapped around the glass.
What was wrong, I didn’t know
until one night she told me

that she once loved someone
who wasn’t a Jew
but my grandmother drove him away,
and after that, she lived like a widow

with no one to talk to over meals,
no one to sleep beside
no one to help her pick out bath towels
or have children with.

I heard the ice tinkle
as she sipped, eyelids shut,
and to this day I’ve found
comfort in scotch,

its caramel scent and honey glow;
I didn’t know then
how it burned your throat,
that it wasn’t like candies and sweets.

*

Memory of My Grandfather

Grandma divided the bed
whenever I slept over
with a wooden board,
saying she didn’t want me
catching his cancer,

but aside from that,
all I can recall
is that small apartment kitchen,

how he shuffled past
the old gas oven
you had to light with a match
in his collared striped pajamas
to sit at the dining table

and drink his
Pepto-Bismol
from a small juice glass
to ease his stomach
after the chemo,
the chalky pink sludge
leaving a foam line
on his lip,

and then how I wailed
when I learned
they’d had his funeral
without telling me—

although to this day
I don’t know
what it was
I thought I’d missed.

*

My Mother Loses Me at the Department Store

I am stranded on an island
of a mannequin stand, sitting and
peering up at the pale plastic skin,
her dress the color of canaries,

a man in an armchair winks
as if we’re in a secret club, but I
focus on the women meandering,
rummaging for bargains,

mother nowhere in sight,
muzac drifting through the air
as cash registers open and close,
sounding like distant thunder.

They disappear behind racks
of packed rayon and wool,
scarves drooping from steel saplings,
hats perched like hawks,

and I wonder what would happen
if they turn off the lights,
and lock all the doors, with me still inside—
who will ever find me

when I spot her emerging
from a dressing room,
smiling and
wearing a new dress,
the tags already removed.

*

Harrison Bae Wein’s fiction and poetry has appeared in several literary journals. His series of laboratory stories, Blinded by Science, was the first fiction published at LabLit.com. He has also been a finalist in the Glimmer Train Family Matters short story contest. Harrison has won several awards as a health and science writer, and his work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Richmond Times-Dispatch and many other outlets. He founded and now edits two health publications at the National Institutes of Health. You can find him online at http://harrisonwein.com.

For Mother, Whose Maiden Name Was German by Donna Hilbert

For Mother, Whose Maiden Name Was German

From this porch swing,
I look into the woods
beyond the highway,
and dream of you, Mother,

who didn’t like the woods,
but loved a porch swing,
who liked horizons clean:
ocean beyond a bank
of sand, a backroad arrow
through billowing
seas of wheat.

You didn’t like the woods,
but loved a porch swing.
O cradle of memory.
Your name, Zumwalt:
into the woods.

You didn’t like the woods,
uneasy when the way
could not be seen.
How did you enter then
the pitchblack woods
unafraid, serene?

*

Donna Hilbert’s latest book is Gravity: New & Selected Poems, Tebot Bach, 2018. Her new collection, Threnody, is forthcoming from Moon Tide Press. She is a monthly contributing writer to the on-line journal Verse-Virtual. Work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Braided Way, Chiron Review, Sheila-Na-Gig, Rattle, Zocalo Public Square, One Art, and numerous anthologies. She writes and leads private workshops in Southern California, where she makes her home. Learn more at www.donnahilbert.com

Three Poems by Faith Shearin

Messages from my Mother
Cousin Violet is recovering from a gallbladder operation. I can give
you her address if you would like to send flowers.
Aunt Fern has a blockage in the main artery of her neck
and is scheduled for surgery. Uncle Gus has a spot in his eye.
There was a flood at the summer cottage. I went out to start the car and opened
the door to a cloud of mold and mildew. In our absence, all that flies
and crawls has invaded our kitchen. Sadie’s friend’s mother
passed away and Mildred is driving to Boone
for the funeral tomorrow. 95 is flooded but she is hoping to take a detour.
Uncle Uther has a newborn baby girl. She has Uther’s chin.
The oven is broken. I stayed on hold all morning trying
to schedule a repair person. Our friend Hoyt may need a cortisone shot in his hip.
According to Selma, Miss Jane is growing feeble.
Your father has a new toothbrush that he says is better than going to the dentist.
It’s okay if you hate the window seat and matching pillows;
it would just be nice to hear your voice.
*
My Mother, Killing Mice
My mother was assigned mice
by her college Biology professor,
asked to perform
experiments involving mazes
and rewards, but she forgot
to feed them when she left
for Christmas holiday
in a rush of train tickets
and trunks, her best dress
and silk scarf wrapped
in tissue paper, my father waiting
for her in a top coat
on a platform made vague
by arrival. So her mice grew weak
in the glass world of her
forgetfulness: fur the color of winter,
cold whiskers, bowls of hunger.
*
My Mother, Getting Lost
She did not mind a foreign landscape or an absence
of cardinal directions. When I rode with her —
windows open, farmhouses made of moonlight —
she did not plan a route but let everything
become unfamiliar, her steering wheel
unaware of a prime meridian or compass rose.
It was as if she had been born
with the earliest star-shaped
Babylonian Map inside her: all highways surrounded
by a bitter river, land beginning in mountains
but ending in marsh, each destination a triangular wedge
where a bull dwells or the sun is not visible,
beyond the flight of birds.
*
Faith Shearin’s books of poetry include: The Owl Question (May Swenson Award), Moving the Piano (SFA University Press), Telling the Bees (SFA University Press), Orpheus, Turning (Dogfish Head Poetry Prize), Darwin’s Daughter (SFA University Press), and Lost Language (Press 53). She has received awards from Yaddo, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Recent work has been read aloud on The Writer’s Almanac and included in American Life in Poetry.

One Poem by Andrea Potos

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY OF MY MOTHER’S PASSING

Her joy becomes my joy. —
         Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

This June morning, flickering light and shadow
on the spread pages of my book
while somewhere above me in the arching
and waving branches of the beeches, one cardinal
keeps throbbing an unceasing song.
And the sky–did I mention the cloudless sky?
The softest blue, as if created
with the pastels of a master, then brushed across
with the gentlest sweep of her arm.

*

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Marrow of Summer and Mothershell, both from Kelsay Books; and A Stone to Carry Home from Salmon Poetry. You can find her poems many places online and in print, most recently in Spirituality & Health Magazine, Braided Way, Buddhist Poetry Review, and Poetry East. She is actively working on a new collection of poems, generated from the epigraph on this poem, called “Her Joy Becomes.”

On a hike up the back mountain by Melody Wang

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.

Unstuck by Brian O’Sullivan

Unstuck

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
now, and,
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.
              But watch!

*

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.

A Poet’s Mother Dies from Covid by Le Hinton

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.

Two Poems by Betsy Mars

Kavod HaMet*

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

*

Bearing Water

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).

Four Poems by Sandra Kohler

Having lost it…

When I tell my therapist about having lost it completely three days ago
when my husband gets angry at me because I’ve left a cabinet door open
and he bangs his head on it, says it’s something I’ve done before, I
tell her I don’t understand what set me off so completely, so that
I scream I can’t stand it, threaten to leave, to kill myself, outrageous
unforgivable behavior, and why, all because of his understandable
irritation at the end of a long siege of frustrations, stress, anxiety
in these awful pandemic days.

What was this about, I ask, and she asks me. “My mother,” I say. That
answer that we all come up with in the end, unless it’s “my father.” But
for me, it was her, not him. And somehow, I don’t know how, I have
reached, in these days, a kind of grim unrecognized decision: I reject
her definition of me, my life. I don’t want ever again to feel guilty or
unworthy or incompetent, I am done, finally, with apologizing for my
existence.

*

Recognition

I’m thinking this morning, as I often
do, of my wish that my husband and I
had known each other decades earlier,
ages before we met, middle-aged, with
years of living behind each of us. But
today for the first time I realize I’ve been
wrong, we do have that knowledge.

Each of us still carries the young self
we were inside, bringing a childhood,
a parentage, family, first marriage, years
of living adult lives. Here and now, in
the present, we see, hear, feel aspects of
that life, that person in the other. Here
and now, in this relationship, we are
each all the selves we’ve ever been.

*

Vanishing

Climbing a steep hill of iced-over
snow in front of a public building,
library of some kind, I know I have
to extract one book from the depths
of the mound, it’s what I’m here for.
The rest has vanished. We vanish
and don’t. We are alive in the dreams
of others, or dead, dreams which may
be closer to nightmare than dream,
or not. We are strange familiar ghosts
becoming apparitions, visitations.

I lose a hearing aid, the key to my
house, an hour, a morning, a slip of
paper with the name of the nostrum
that could save me, a child’s first all-
accepting love, a friendship that was
never whole but whose fractures still
beckoned. I lose my sense of humor,
my sense of proportion, my way,
my whereabouts, my why.

Do I have anything left to say? Of
course. Do I know how to say it? Of
course not. It’s the not which gives me
the knot to unpick, whose threads can
be woven into patches, forming a
patchwork which can be sewn into
a fabric which will be a statement
of something I don’t know I know.

*

What Follows

After ten years of living here, I still
don’t know the weather, its patterns,
where it comes from. Or the domestic
weather: my daughter-in-law’s moods.

Talking to her about the garden, I get
what I’ve asked for and then don’t know
what to do with it. I can accept or reject
it. Whatever. What would whatever be?

There are grave limits not on what I
can want but on how much I can have.
The sky says anything can come along
and will, but not what or where. Our

roses are blossoming today as if there
is no tomorrow. If they’re right I should
be attending not to weather but whether:
what can I create from today’s offerings?

*

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems, Improbable Music, (Word
Press) appeared in May, 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of
Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing, (University of
Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including
The New Republic, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many
others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be
part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast
Technology Center in Philadelphia.

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.