Two Poems by Natalie Homer

Protest in a Small Town

Trucks trailing flags belch by,
stuttering their war cries,
their reds and blues, stars and bars.

When we chant Say her name
those on the other side of the street
drown our voices

and they make sure we can see
their guns, their sources of power,
because they’re afraid

our handmade signs, our impotent
shouts for justice will somehow
destroy our sad little town.

As they cross the street,
and the police let them,
I try not to think

of how easily any one of us
could not make it home.
But who are we to complain?

they ask, and maybe they’re right.
I have no answer, so I look instead
at the planters of bubblegum petunias

that the city maintains each summer,
with such care, the watering trucks
making stops in the cool of the morning

to keep the fragile flowers alive,
even though it’s just for a season.
When our permit expires, and we leave,

the others stay behind, chatting with police,
passing water cups, and congratulating
themselves on keeping the town safe.

In church the next day, I’ll watch
as one of them makes his way to the altar
and kneels on the green carpet,

praying, I’m sure, for this nation he loves
more than anything
to be delivered                to be saved.


or After Insurrection

Again, men get what they want with little fuss.
Write that fifty times in your best cursive.

Pretty snow gives way to ice,
lights go back into their boxes,
and wilted Poinsettia is thrown away.

Under the giant firs,
Blue Jays sprinkle the sidewalk
with peanut shells.

Most days I drive past one Fuck Biden banner,
a homemade sign that says Build the Wall,
and three thin blue line flags, defiant,

black and blue like a bruise or a body.
I take up a collection for reason’s sake.
The plate comes back nearly empty.

Thousands of miles away, at Big Springs
the rainbow trout beneath the bridge
stay put for good reason

and I wonder how they are doing,
if they are being fed, if steam is lifting
off the river between its powdered banks.

I’m sorry you’ve heard that, someone tells me.
For consolation, I crinkle the library book’s loose laminate
like I did as a child, inhale its slight sour stink.

Natalie Homer’s recent poetry has been published in Puerto del Sol, American Literary Review, Four Way Review, Ruminate, Sou’wester, and others. She received an MFA from West Virginia University and lives in southwestern Pennsylvania. Her first collection, Under the Broom Tree, is forthcoming from Autumn House Press.

Storytelling by Michael T. Young


A man standing in the middle of 42nd Street said,
“Happiness is a cave with WiFi and my favorite beer.”

I believed him because he was naked
and the police were converging on him.

When he stretched out on the hot asphalt,
a pigeon crossed overhead from marquee to marquee.

That’s how I knew he was telling the story of our age.
Some reporter may write down his proclamations,

distinguish by them the gun from the plough,
and teach how stories caught in empty bottles

howl as long congressional breaths over their rims,
and other stories calcify into shells with seawater

cupped in their nacreous bowls. The differences in them
are that the final scripture etched in their salts

guides us to sip from troughs imparting the wisdom
that a hug is warmer than a smoking gun

and while your story is more interesting: hiking the Himalayas,
sharing shots of slivovitz with painters in Prague,

or your knees giving out at the World Trade Center Site
remembering you survived that day by two or three minutes—

it’s not my story. It would be thievery for me to tell it.
And though I was there that day too, I kept walking,

am walking still, so my story goes untold
because my knees are stronger, because telling a story

means stopping and sitting down, maybe with a beer,
maybe lying down on the hot asphalt until they carry you away.


Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. His previous collections are The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. His chapbook, Living in the Counterpoint, received the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. It has also appeared or is forthcoming in numerous journals including Cimarron Review, Gargoyle Magazine, One, RATTLE, and Valparaiso Poetry Review.