Two poems by Carla Sarett

They Made Wars

We drank sweet Turkish coffee
and talked long into the night
of mothers who lost children in cities,
who locked them out of houses in thick rain,
who foresaw snow on a warm spring day,
how snow fell after their words.

By dawn, we forgot which stories
we had told and which we had forgotten
in the eagerness of our first revelations.

By starlight, we whispered our terrors:
Giant mothers outgrew houses.
They made wars without anyone noticing.

We never mentioned fathers.
Those pale and harried men.

*

no one says it

Deirdre’s sending
love w/ exclamation points
love! love! love!
John texts it (love)
no point wanting
a love letter she knows
that’s not the #love
they’re sending
& that song
love love love
all you need is
not the #love
she needs

*

Carla Sarett’s recent poem appear or are forthcoming in Blue Unicorn, The Virginia Normal, San Pedro River Review, The Remington Review, Sylvia, Words and Whispers and elsewhere. Her novella, The Looking Glass, will be published in October (Propertius); and A Closet Feminist, a full-length novel, will appear in 2022 (Unsolicited Press.) Carla lives in San Francisco.

The Night You Returned by W.D. Ehrhart

The Night You Returned

A road crew was paving the highway
the night you returned from the war.
It was March; they had set up floodlights;
the black viscous tar steamed in the cold.
The workmen didn’t notice you.
Why would they?
You weren’t any different
from all the other passersby that night
or any other night, just another car.
They had a machine;
they were laying macadam
mile after mile.
Black. Viscous. Steaming.
Mile after mile after mile.
Deep into the night.

W. D. Ehrhart is an ex-Marine sergeant and veteran of the American War in Vietnam. His latest book is Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company.

Five Poems by Ron Riekki

The Kid Who Drank Himself to Death During the War

lived in the barracks right across from mine.
His face was all brilliant with light, like
the sun hitting the ocean. And they hit us
in boot camp, the revelation of that, how
the recruiters don’t mention this little fact,

or they did—unsure if they still do it now,
but my suspicion is yes, the fists all bone
and temple, the church of war. I remember
my mind before the explosions, how it used
to think properly, or maybe it didn’t, the river

near my home owned by the mines now,
oranged. I walked to it yesterday, stared
down into the deranged red, so close to
the color of blood. I pulled up my hood
and walked home. I can walk though.

*

I Worked in Prison

My jobs have all been fist fights for cash.
When I was a boxer, I started getting tremors,
the doctor telling me to stop or they’d become
permanent. I stopped. They stayed. I thought
about how I’d been a boxer my whole life,
even before I was boxing, how the military
takes your skull and kills it. Sure, you can
still live, but it’s a bit like your body is
a house that’s been built, but abandoned,
foreclosed, possessed, a sort of Satanism
to corporation, a sort of corpse-creation,
that reminds me so much of prison, how
there were all these sons in there, no sun,
the paleness of their skin, everyone, no
matter your race, how it looked like they
were all fading, their psyches, their souls,
the violence where if they ever got out
I knew they’d be changed, how violence
stays in your veins, how a bloody life
stays in your blood, how we really,
honestly, could do anything else other
than what we’re doing and it’d be
better, but we’re promised to this cash.

*

(lucky) I Work in Medical

Which means medical works
me, because medical doesn’t
work, because of this equation:
politics + medicine = politics,
and the nursing homes aren’t
homes and there isn’t nursing
there, because the CNAs and
the med techs and the EMTs
are all making minimum wage,
which means my partner fell
asleep driving the ambulance,
turning it upside-down, just
like his life, trying to make

the torment of rent, how it
tore into us, you, me, every-
one when even the EMTs
don’t have health insurance,
and we know that the word
minus ends with US, because
it’s all about erasers, melting
pots where the kids come in
overdosing on marijuana and
one of them says, But you can’t
overdose on pot and I tell him
Well, you are right now and
it’s beautiful—hyperemesis,

how it is, this existence where
the overdoses are normalized,
where my uncle, his heroin
addiction in a hick town, how
I call him and he answers,
voice in slow motion, the ice
outside his window so loud
that I can hear it, the blizzards
of poverty (the anti-poetry),
A Cell of One’s Own and
we’re owned and I’m ranting
about the renting because I
am worried as hell about home-

lessness because the word virus
ends with US and this won’t
get published unless the editor
has been to the pub and is OK
with saying f- censorship—too
afraid to write the word, too
afraid to talk about how when
they play the sexual harassment
training videos at work, everyone
does a play-by-play commentary
like Misery Science Theater 2021,
how we’re all Orwelled and all it
takes is one hospital bill to end a life.

*

In This Poem, I Am Happy and Blessed

but it’s a short poem. It’s a poem where God
gives me a bird, walking, at my feet, how I
almost didn’t see it, the thing rainbowed as
all hell. Who makes something that beautiful?

I snuff out my clove, hurry inside to my cubicle.

*

I Can’t Stop Winking

It’s a defective muscle. My trauma-head
all butchered. But people misread it, think
I’m flirty. Or that I’m sharing some sort
of secret with them. They look directly
in my eyes with a look like yes, I under-
stand too or yes, I saw it as well. Saw
what? The occasional frown, sometimes
a wink back, sexy. But I’m twice
their age. I want to apologize, say
that my eye is owned by history, but
they just move on, their bodies so
perfect, able to control everything.
How do they do that? How?

*

Ron Riekki’s books include My Ancestors are Reindeer Herders and I Am Melting in Extinction (Apprentice House Press), Posttraumatic (Hoot ‘n’ Waddle), and U.P. (Ghost Road Press). Riekki co-edited Undocumented (Michigan State University Press) and The Many Lives of The Evil Dead (McFarland), and edited The Many Lives of It (McFarland), And Here (MSU Press), Here (MSU Press, Independent Publisher Book Award), and The Way North (Wayne State University Press, Michigan Notable Book).

From the back porch of a war by James Feichthaler

From the back porch of a war

I wish I could be like this dandelion —
patient, awaiting rains. Thousands are dying,
and we’ve been told to stay inside our homes
to keep the numbers down. The squirrels aren’t buying
such lousy edicts, rummaging through our garden
for anything to stuff between their gums.
They don’t have bills past due or rent to pay,
patients to tend to, politicians’ lies
to aggravate their fears in these dark times;
oblivious to the shortage of supplies
in hospitals, to a panic that only comes
when having too much (as a luxury)
infects the brain. Here, on this warm March day,
their hoarding means new life is on the way.

*

James Feichthaler is a poet and essayist whose work has most recently appeared in Sortes, Schuylkill Valley Journal, Martin Lake Journal, and the Mad Poets Society’s Local Lyrics series. His new book The Rise of the COVFEFE, a poetical satire of these divided and uncertain times, was recently published by Parnilis Media. He is also the host of an open mic reading in Manayunk, PA called The Dead Bards of Philadelphia.