Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Bacon-Wrapped Dates and the Last Word
Stones pock our dirt road to the end of my vision.
There, perspective hones to a point
as small as your vaccine scar. You were making
bacon-wrapped dates for a Thanksgiving party,
and I recall wishbones, that like all superstition,
are archived with chuckles from past holidays
where you sliced turkey so gently, the meat
could have been butter. What sacrifice
is in the filigree of a dead geranium’s blush, one
inhabiting that soon-forgotten moment
between life and death, the last inhale, the letting go,
book’s last word, cinema’s fade-to-black?
I forget what breakfast juice I sipped while you stiffened,
your gregarious green eyes bereft of sight.
This year, I’ll try to cook, use spices you left behind,
your oregano, your sage. I’d rather take LSD
to lose this Thanksgiving wholly to imagination,
this anniversary of the beginning of your end.
There is nothing uniform about grief,
though I’d scissor it into islands
like the Cyclades, their trees, pomegranate and fig,
sweet after the bacon-wrapped dates
you’d been cooking before your collapse,
when the ambulance squared up the drive, your food
left warm on the counter. Who knew you’d begun
to leave this life while you were making side dishes?
Who could have suspected your cranberry tart
would match the body bag
zipped slowly over your perfect face.
Lindsey Royce’s poems have appeared in American and international periodicals and anthologies, including the Aeolian Harp 5 anthology; Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts (periodicals and anthologies); The Dreaming Machine: Writing and Visual Arts from the World; and Poet Lore. Her poems, The Sensual Sea and Adagio for Heart Strings, were nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Royce’s first poetry collection, Bare Hands, was published by Turning Point in September of 2016, and her second collection, Play Me a Revolution, published by Press 53 in September of 2019, won the silver medal for poetry in the 2020 Independent Publishers Book Awards.
Winter Walk with Angel
Elizabeth S. Wolf
“I saw dad punch the dog,” she tells me.
We are walking on the beach. The dog is old.
“He told me not to tell you. Do you think
the dog forgives me?”
Her words sting like icy wind.
I did not protect this dog- this girl-
as I should have. Fiercely.
My home a safe shelter.
“You got caught in crossfire,” I tell her.
“But I put that man out.
We gave our precious Angel
ten more good years.”
That afternoon we bring the dog
to the vet. I stroke her ruff as
her shoulders slack, stroke
my sobbing daughter’s back.
Elizabeth S. Wolf ’s recent books are the Rattle Chapbook Did You Know? (Rattle, 2019) and When Lawyers Wept (Kelsay, 2019). Elizabeth’s poetry appears in many journals & anthologies, including Ibbetson Street, 3rd Wednesday, Fiolet & Wing, Peregrine Journal, Persian Sugar in English Tea (in English & Farsi), and Klarissa Dreams Redux. Her poems have been nominated for multiple Pushcart Prizes. She was a winner in the Third Wednesday 2020 Poetry Contest.
On Religion and Ramen
There is a body I pray to & a body I fold.
My son looks up long enough to wince at
the categories I’ve chose. He’s figured out
truth is more complicated than I’ll divulge.
We’re pasting noodles on paper since his
teacher believes the wheat hue resembles
Jesus’s hairdo. Harried by this inaccuracy
I try to explain ethnicity in terms a toddler
can perceive, but he stops me, I know Mommy
God is in the trees. I’m shocked that moss static
on a branch comes at him as hymn, that bark
or limb could be conjured into sermon but he
is back to his macaroni Messiah before I can
ask who’s in the wind or if God’s in a canopy which
deity gravels our feet. Unvexed by the possibilities
which haunt me, he returns to building Jesus’s
wings out of garbanzo beans, not bothering
to ask if God is legend or reality, a question
he poses about everything from Thursday
to Ms. Piggy, but currently has forsaken for
a chance to tesselate this holy lentiled body,
elated that even his mistakes have a place
when it comes to composing God’s face.
Alexa Doran is currently working on her PhD in Poetry at Florida State University. Her full-length collection DM Me, Mother Darling won the 2020 May Sarton Poetry Prize and will be published by Bauhan Publishing in Spring 2021. She is also the author of the chapbook Nightsink, Faucet Me a Lullaby (Bottlecap Press 2019). You can look for work from Doran in recent or upcoming issues of Passages North, Literary Mama, THE BOILER, and Harvard Review, among others.
Gasoline and Water
Skin upon skin, gasoline in the air, the smell of another’s perfume. I kiss your lips, and stroke your abdomen, the acrid taste of gasoline and oil staining my nostrils. I am making love with you and her, the object of your desire.
I feel your hand around my waist, moving up my ribs and then down over my hips, you and her together. I am excited by this threesome, ready to ride fast and furious down this speedway of passion.
Your hands are working with me now, but her presence remains; gasoline and oil, lingering in the doorway. She hides in your fingernails, is embedded in your skin, and I flow into the heat of your triangle, vanishing in the rear-view mirror.
When we are in our room, I see you in her room, lovingly polishing her dash, playing under her hood, lubing her joints. I am strangely turned on by your love scene with her, jealous, longing to feel the heat of you on that cold concrete floor, our reflections in her polished frame.
Steel upon steel, hot and cold, brittle and hard, that power beneath the hood that beats in my chest when you turn the key. Pump harder now, faster, push the limits until the gear shifts and we speed recklessly towards the crash.
J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress and an international arthritis advocate from Vancouver British Columbia. She has published several pieces of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction. She is a contributing writer to three books: Strange World—A Biff Bam Pop Short Story Anthology, Emerge 19, and Real Life Diaries: Living with Rheumatic Diseases. She is a graduate of The Writer’s Studio Program and is working on her first novel.
Ralph Hauptmeir found himself in deep woods
igniting rotted fence posts, yellowed newspaper
with gasoline siphoned from his father’s truck.
He longed to confess to Father Mathias, but
how to speak his body’s constant conflagration,
its luscious buzz in the sizzle-suck of air?
One afternoon behind the shed, his fingers
closed on a matchbook in his pocket.
It was flame before he knew it, flame
vaulting as he watched, struck, flame
lighting the thick fuse of Virginia creeper
that climbed the house where his mother
lay in the back bedroom napping,
the new baby curled at her breast.
From afar, he watched himself
grab the hose coiled in the shed, attach
mouth to faucet, his hands steady.
No one ever knew.
His sister grew, a slow, sunny child
with eyes bright as blue glass.
She would never marry, never leave home.
He knew this had nothing to do with him.
He knew it had everything to do with him.
Mary Rohrer-Dann is a writer and painter living in central PA. Her poetry collection, Taking the Long Way Home, is forthcoming in December from Kelsay Books. Recent stories and poems have appeared in San Antonia Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Literary Yard, The Drabble, & other publications. Two narrative poem projects, La Scaffetta and Accidents of Being, were adapted to stage by Tempest Productions, Inc. and produced in NYC; State College, PA; and Philadelphia.
Should Have Been a Tuesday
Sarah Mackey Kirby
Not a Saturday.
She should have died on a Tuesday.
The line’s not so long at the bagel place
you take your dad to
to make sure he eats breakfast.
Because staying home means
he’d get swallowed by the house.
Fall so deep into the hurt
it could knock him to his knees.
Collapse his lungs right there
next to the newspaper he’d
started to read and the phone
dropped beeping on the floor.
Bagels are a good choice
because the line goes quick,
and you don’t have to
decide what you want.
People tend to stick
with the same brand of soap
and the same kind of bagel
all their lives.
But Saturdays are the busiest
bagel-getting days and filled
who can’t make a decision.
And you’re afraid to have your dad
stand too long in line in case you’re not
strong enough to hold him up.
Or make up for her being gone.
But also scared to make him
wait at a table alone.
No good day to lose
one of your daughters.
But a Tuesday might have been better.
Sarah Mackey Kirby is a Kentucky poet. Her work has been published in Boston Literary Magazine, Connecticut River Review, Impspired, Muddy River Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MA in Teaching and a BA in Political Science. She and her husband live in Louisville.
Bill Cosby’s Cancelled Commencement Speech
Think of me from the last episode,
the best retelling of my life.
Me in the bleachers, another
surrogate child moving on.
They flashback to episode one,
where I verbally whipped him
into shape, to the laughter of millions,
game rigged from the start.
If he, or you, could see me
in the background smiling, you’d know.
It was me. It was always me. I won.
You commenced, I finished years ago.
If you’re going to win in life,
you need to insert the McGuffin
monologue, the game changing pill
before they tell you to go.
If you don’t like it, you can leave,
but I’d rather you pull your pants
up, join me in the living room
watch my story over and over.
It’s a good life in Huxtaville,
where we all do our part,
remember the titles of your betters
after the light goes out.
Chad Parenteau hosts Boston's long-running Stone Soup Poetry series. His work has appeared in journals such as Résonancee, Queen Mob's Tea-House, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Tell-Tale Inklings, Off The Coast, Ibbetson Street and Wilderness House Literary Review. He currently serves as a regular contributor to Headline Poetry & Press as well as Associate Editor of the online journal Oddball Magazine. His second collection, The Collapsed Bookshelf, has just been released.
Whenever it happens, more often than you might think, that I encounter a group of my peers, aging boomers, greying hipsters and the like, sitting in a circle around a guitar player or two, singing the anthem of our generation, the classic Lennon song, “Imagine”. I pull out my phone and take a video clip to send to my millennial daughter. She rolls her eyes, sighs and says, “They’re at it again!” I imagine that someday those eyes will fill with tears when the last of my generation is gone and she happens upon one of those recordings playing a bit of that song. It’s the way the strains of “Tumbalalaika” or “Tura Lura Lural”, brings up for the grandchildren of immigrants, remembrances of the smells of steaming soups and stews, the sound of laughter flavored by old country accents, and images of worn faces framed in silk kerchiefs and wool caps. It was a beloved generation who crossed oceans to get here. Now, they appear mostly as symbols of nostalgia in film, books, faded photos in old albums. Soon we too will be a generation mostly forgotten. Brought to mind by memorabilia, buttons, bumper stickers, songs (already being used as background for commercials), snippets of still and moving photos on tablets and old phones.
Madlynn Haber lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. Her work has been published in the anthology Letters to Fathers from Daughters, in Anchor Magazine, Exit 13 Magazine and on websites including: The Jewish Writing Project, Mused Literary Review, Hevria, Right Hand Pointing, Mothers Always Write, Random Sample, Club Plum Literary Journal, Ariel Chart International Literary Journal, The Sunlight Press, Sparks of Calliope and Adelaide Literary Magazine.
Mailbox Andrena Zawinski
Those days unfolded slowly inside the deadening cold of another East Coast freeze— rolled towels stiffened by frost stuck into weathered door jams, rods of icicle ripples dripping from window sills, comfort huddling at an old space heater. Then those drawn out summers sticky with sweat, with bare feet stung by pavement and racing inside from play to box fans for a wash of syncopated cool, the waiting for something bigger to arrive, by mail order—its free items and all the things quarters taped with address onto file cards could bring from back page ads of Screen Book, True Story, Look: The stamp collection of flags of states and foreign lands all traveled into the mailbox. Stars fell from fan clubs on signed photos from Jimmy Dean to Omar Sharif, Shirley Temple to Marilyn Monroe. Hope rose on Zoltare’s fortune cards: your search for travel is present within. Possibility showed up in John Gnagy Draw Me challenges of Appaloosa, Great Dane, Arctic Puffin. And then the poems, the poems: Lawrence Ferlinghetti sailing in with A Coney Island of the Mind. Allen Ginsberg asking, America, why are your libraries full of tears? Dylan Thomas pleading do not go gently into that good night. Sylvia Plath taking a deep breath and listening to the old bray of heart, saying I am. I am. I am. All of them tumbling into a bowed box streaked by rust, slightly unhinged coffer askew, lid squeaking open and closed announcing deliveries, sometimes donning its cap of frozen snow, other times parched by sun, but always, always, ready to be filled.
Andrena Zawinski’s poetry has received awards for lyricism, form, spirituality, and social concern, several of them Pushcart Prize nominees. Her latest book is Landings from Kelsay Books; others are Something About from Blue Light Press (a PEN Oakland Award) and Traveling in Reflected Light from Pig Iron Press (a Kenneth Patchen Prize) along with several smaller collections. She founded and runs the San Francisco Bay Area Women’s Poetry Salon and is Features Editor at PoetryMagazine.com
The Beach at Lewis Bay
Because I was watching the waves
roll in and not where I was walking,
I very nearly stepped with bare feet
on a decaying wing, all that drearily
remained of a so-called “laughing gull,”
dirty white flight feathers flaking off
a now-fatuous frame of hollow bones
that nature had designed for soaring.
I don’t remember why I started,
but I have almost filled an old jelly jar
with sea glass, odd-shaped shards
I have collected one or two at a time
from the beach, and whatever their color,
brown, turquoise, white, bottle green,
whatever their eligibility or provenance,
they were stored for an age underwater
in cold and darkness and now are like charms,
talismans, to which the cold yet clings.
Howie Good's latest poetry collections are The Death Row Shuffle (Finishing Line Press, 2020) and The Trouble with Being Born (Ethel Micro-Press, 2020).
Grandma’s Rosary Beads
His flannel pajamas were decorated with Noah’s Ark cartoon animals.
The giraffe glued to his body where the towel missed the remnants of the bath water.
A nightlight throws out yellowish halos, breaking up the darkness of the murky bedroom.
He is unsettled under the covers after this traumatic day.
But he would not dare miss his nightly obligation after what happened.
Although Grandma wore her favorite red party dress adorned with tassels and fringe, it seemed out of place.
The flowers smelled sickeningly sweet, and she wore too much makeup,
And she clenched the rosary beads too tightly.
There was a penalty for not saying his prayers every night.
If only he had met his nightly obligation, he wouldn’t have had to say good-bye to her today.
John Johnson is a writer and entrepreneur from McLean, Virginia. He is the author of Everydata: The Misinformation in the Little Data You Consume Every Day. His poetry focuses on capturing the essence of everyday experiences.
Out Through the In Door
Going to the supermarket as a young dude was fixin’ to leave through the “in” door. That door opens when you come at it from the wrong side but it opens inwards; I was approaching at the same time and triggered it a moment before he expected. It smacked him right in the snoot. A full-frontal Hall-of-Fame slobberknocker. A beautiful sight. I will regret until the grave that I didn’t record the moment to provide pleasure for millions throughout cyberspace for all eternity. Young dude reclaimed his cool, readjusted hipster glasses, and strode by me with an “everything’s-under-control-nothing-to-see-here-just-move-along” look. I played it deadpan but on second thought maybe I should have guffawed…offered a little lesson that if you can’t laugh at yourself someone else will be happy to do it for you…
Charles Coe is the author of three books of poetry: All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents, Picnic on the Moon, and the just-released Memento Mori, all published by Leapfrog Press. Charles is also author of Spin Cycles, a novella published by Gemma Media. He was selected as a Boston Literary Light by the Associates of the Boston Public Library and is a former artist fellow at the St. Botolph Club in Boston. Charles was a 2017 artist-in-residence for the city of Boston, where he created an oral history project that focused on residents of Mission Hill. He is poetry editor of Multiplicity, an online literary journal. Charles has served as poet-in-residence at Wheaton College and at the Chautauqua Institution in New York State and is an adjunct professor of English at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island, and Bay Path University in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, where he teaches in both MFA programs.
Bagged During Quarantine
“You didn’t bother to tell me before I drove two-and-a-half hours to visit?” ~Me
How’d he quit the relationship?
By removing gold ring from his left finger.
asks, “Where’s your ring?”
“Stopped wearing it,” his terse reply
while taking another bite of salad.
“Too little time together.” Utterly
nonchalant with an especially passive
undertone of violence. Or was that me
who wanted to smash that glass
Buddha head into my now X’s noggin,
a man still forking fish from plate
to mouth, a man who X-ed me out
after X number of years
without even mentioning it?
All his clothes and shoes bagged
in Hefty black plastic. Closet emptied
and wiped down of his smell, like after
a death, except he’s still breathing
up in Flagstaff. Fucker used to be
a good word, not a slur. “Pour
your hormone replacement
purple ovals into the trash
and you won’t miss him,” jokes
my friend, like it’s estrogen,
not his kiss, voice, fingertips
that used to trip the lust switch.
Men! Who needs ‘em?
Loser. (Me or him?)
Susan Vespoli is a poet/essayist who writes from Phoenix, AZ. She leads virtual writing circles on writers.com and has had work published in spots such as Rattle, Mom Egg Review, Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, and Nailed Magazine.
Devoe Street, 1956
On the top floor of a three-story walkup
in a Brooklyn neighborhood crammed with
asphalt-shingled tenements hulking
against the blackened sky from a nearby foundry,
my grandmother, who came to America
on her own at nineteen to retrieve
an older brother the family had lost track of––
and instead was made to stay and marry a man she didn't know
by the same brother––
would sit me when I was three or four
on the drainboard of a large porcelain sink
in the kitchen, which like the rest of the apartment
was coated in so many layers of paint that
doors no longer fit their jambs,
and with linoleum floors
worn to the texture of fine sandpaper,
to wash my feet with a bar of Ivory,
the smell of soap mixing with her hair
singed by a curling iron,
then dried my feet, separating each toe
to get the rough towel between them,
clicking her ill-fitting dentures all the while
as she rolled them around her mouth
and spoke to me in gentle broken English.
A.J. Sorrentino was born in New York City and currently lives in western Massachusetts. His poetry explores the intersection of imagination and language to understand the ways perception shapes our experience of the world. He is the author of the chapbook Being Still. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Meat for Tea, Third Wednesday, The Edison Literary Review, and others.
It was late and I got up to go but she said wait,
why don’t you stay for a while, and I said
I would and sat down. She offered me cookies
and a glass of wine, but I was watching my weight,
my cholesterol, my triglycerides, my glucose.
I almost asked if she had any vitamin D,
but we just turned on the set an watched Jeopardy.
You really should go on, she said. No, I would
freeze up and make an idiot of myself.
So we watched and I got the Final Jeopardy question,
which was the name of the pitcher who served up
Roger Maris’ 61st home run. Any sportswriter
would know the answer to that, and guys like me
who had wasted their youth.
She didn’t know it was Tracy Stallard, but then
she didn’t know who Roger Maris was either, so the point was moot.
Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has appeared widely and has received several nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He is the author of 14 poetry collections including Family Reunion, published by Big Table.
Jim spun the pennies like a top
capturing our Maine Coon cat’s attention
as he hid behind the counter,
tail tick-tocking back and forth.
New copper, old copper, wheat
pennies that the cat tired of quickly
without warning, stalking away in tiger stance.
Before vacuuming the pennies required
retrieval from under refrigerator, heater baseboards.
Old now, interested only in sleep,
Mr.Cat no longer chases pennies.
Newly minted, our new puppy retrieves
pennies I never found with my reaching broom-
stretching paws of soft cartilage, not yet hard bone
under the washing machine, under floor boards,
baseboards, then she scrapes the pennies
along the floor, fighting with gravity for them
to leap into her mouth. Today, she succeeds,
and tosses the penny like a ball that does not bounce,
but watches it roll. She’s after it like a shot,
whining when it returned to yet-again lost,
like the baby teeth she’s lost this week, six
of them, new front teeth sprouting: her fangs.
Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner is a quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Publisher Finishing Line Press nominated her Your Left Front Wheel Is Coming Loose for a PEN L.L.Winship Award and Mass Book Award. FLP also nominated her Rappelling Blue Light for a Mass Book Award. Former co-curator of the Collected Poets Series, Rodley taught the As You Write It memoir class and has edited and published As You Write It, A Franklin County Anthology volumes I-VI, also nominated for a Mass Book Award. Latest books Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Publishing and Counter Point by Prolific Press
D. Slayton Avery
They entered the house, their breath frosty white in the stale brittle cold even inside. He always felt the guilt of an intruder but his young daughter had never known anything different than this foraging. Ignoring the bones, they went directly to the dusty kitchen where she began opening cupboards.
“There’s cans Daddy! Yellow kernels… corn!”
“Yes, corn.” He had always tried to teach her some of what he had known, what he remembered from the old days. He described again for her how corn used to grow, all the kernels on a cob, the sheathed cob on a stalk, the tall grassy leaves.
She pulled another can with round green peas pictured on its faded label. He told her again how the peas had once been in a pod hanging off a lush green plant; maybe, he suggested, there had even been bits of white blossom still clinging to the pod. She shrugged and handed down a can with purple globes. “Beets.” She didn’t care for beets but never complained. She recited that these had come right from soil.
She scooched along the counter to another cupboard. “Daddy! Look at all these little cans. Meat!”
“Yes! Turkey, fish, even beef!”
“Daddy, remember when I didn’t believe you about the flavors?”
He remembered. She could read the picture on these labels all by herself, for cats were still fairly common, familiar to her. His fingertips brushed the striped fur of her crudely stitched mittens as she handed him the cans.
D. Slayton Avery’s fiction and poetry has appeared in online and print journals—The Hopper, Enchanted Conversations, and Santa Barbara Literary Journal, among others. She is a regular contributor at Carrot Ranch Literary Community. D. has two books of poetry, and a collection of flash fiction. Sample her writing at ShiftnShake.
Laura Wheatman Hill
I have an eating disorder that goes everywhere with me.
She came with me in the front pocket of my overalls on the first day of middle school.
She said everyone was looking at me.
She said to hold my head up high so no one could see my chins.
She cheered from the sidelines on prom night when the scale read 127,
but she pointed out I used to be less.
She let me be pretty that night, and even the next day.
Then she said my date was just my friend because I was bigger than him.
She stowed away in my suitcase to college.
The freshman fifteen was a negative number.
All the boys were watching me eat in the cafeteria.
One said he loved me anyway.
She padded my bra on my wedding day.
She reminded me to put my hand on my hip so my arm fat wouldn’t squish.
She stayed close for the next twelve years.
She found me a husband who agreed with her.
She packed herself into a cardboard box when I moved out.
“It’s all your fault,” they’d said.
But, I didn’t bring that box with me to my new house.
I left them both behind.
She still calls me, from time to time.
I try not to take her calls or listen to her messages.
She says I’ll give up eventually.
I won’t let her win. I can sing my own love song.
Laura Wheatman Hill lives in Portland, Oregon with her two children. She blogs about parenting, writes about everything, and teaches English and drama when not living in an apocalyptic dystopia. Her work has appeared on Parents, JSTOR Daily, Parent Map, She Knows, and others. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @lwheatma.
Some Men Love Their Machines
Rob Dinsmoor I had made good headway shoveling the snow out of my driveway when what had been a distant roar in the background suddenly became deafening. My neighbor’s snowblower had cleared a narrow path up to me before he shut it off. “I can’t stand watching you shovel,” he said. “You’re going to give yourself a heart attack.”
I was forty at the time, in great physical shape, with no risk factors for heart disease. Furthermore, I hated the noise of snowblowers and everything else about them. “I actually like shoveling. It’s a upper body workout and gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
“Don’t be a sap. I can have the rest of your driveway blown out in less than five minutes.”
“Well, okay,” I said, and then added, half-heartedly, “Thanks!”
It did only take five minutes or so, as he meticulously pushed the machine along my driveway and turned it around several times, each time pausing to swivel the snow sprayer in the opposite direction. It looked a lot less fun than shoveling.
When he was done, he started toward the next neighbor’s driveway. I called out “Thanks!”