A Poem by Sally Clark

SUMMER FRUIT

 

 

We pick blackberries, dark and sweet, from between

the spiny branches of a saw-leafed bush, his hand and mine

stained and dripping, bending together in the summer sun;

 

baskets on our arms, we walk sandy rows of bright dimpled

strawberries, twist the fruit to roll gently into our hands,

lick the sweet juice from between our fingers;

 

we stretch for orange-fleshed peaches, together, calculating

our grip to pick, but not squeeze, rub off a fresh one

on our sleeve and share a half, each, to drip from our lips;

 

in the steamy kitchen we strip down, boil, scent the air

with sweetness you could lick off the walls, fill one empty jar

after another, sparkling in rows of geranium, tangerine, and plum.

 

When heat passes and the sun pulls away a bit sooner each day,

leaves begin to fall, flowers die back to the ground, we lean

a bit closer to each other to shelter our bodies from the frost

 

creeping into our bones, take a jar off the shelf, pop the seal,

spoon summer’s sweetness into our mouths, look across the table

into each other’s eyes and remember the picking, the pulling,

 

the dripping, the rolling, the staining, the squeezing, the steam,

our naked, fiery, sweet-filled summer gardens and smile,

taste the juice of one another’s lips and relish

 

our sweet harvest.

 

 

 

 

Sally Clark lives in Fredericksburg, Texas. Her poetry has been widely published in journals, magazines, gift books and anthologies and has won awards from poetry contests across the country. One of her poems received recognition in American Poetry Review and Poetry Magazine, and in 2017 another poem was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Follow her at http://sallyclark.info.

A Poem by Carol L. Deering

A FLURRY OF HORSES

 

 

The clouds are molting. Feathers

tickle the horses, who can’t stand

still. A soft nicker of sun

 

falls through the frosted spray.

The horses leap, swing their heads,

then jog the periphery of joy.

 

This poem was originally published in Weather Watch: Poems from Wyoming, Barbara M. Smith, Ed. (WyoPoets, 2014).

 

 

Carol L. Deering has twice received the Wyoming Arts Council Poetry Fellowship (2016, judge Rebecca Foust; 1999, judge Agha Shahid Ali). Her poetry appears in online and traditional journals, and in the recent anthology Blood, Water, Wind & Stone: An Anthology of Wyoming Writers (Sastrugi Press).  Learn more about the poet https://www.caroldeering.com

A Poem by Roy Bentley

Woman Hanging Out Her Family’s Washing during the Harsh Winter in Eastern Kentucky

 

 

Like my grandmother, the dress doesn’t fit her.

And it’s thick sweaters instead of an overcoat.

 

Like my dead mother, she has wild black hair

and props up a clothesline with a yew branch.

 

A dark moves by the creek. A snake perhaps.

Ice stalactites from the eaves of a row house

 

testify to what’s necessary to survive here:

to let pain melt then forget to summon it

 

even once as the sound of a slow freight.

When she was a fleur-de-lis too beautiful

 

for the snapshot moment, she showed up

the sun and moon. Now, she is filigreed

 

with tattooing and scarring and starlight

in laceless, newspaper-filled work shoes.

 

Soon, she’ll glimpse herself in a mirror,

a ghost straight out of Dorothea Lange.

 

The place is a heaven of snakes, though

seeing one in winter is always a bad sign.

 

 

Roy Bentley is the recipient of fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the Ohio Arts Council. His recent book of poems Walking with Eve in the Loved City was selected by Billy Collins as a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize. Finishing Line Press is publishing his sixth book, Body of a Deer by a Creek in Summer, this October.

A Poem by Anton Yakovlev

 

 

 

CAT OF DEATH

 

 

To keep warm, the cat snuggles up to the people

who are about to die:

death has a certain heat, an intensity in the body

fighting the now-inevitable

or trying to depart with a last bit of fire.

 

It’s not all about the blanket,

but it’s not exactly about love, either.

 

At least at first it had nothing to do with love.

Over time he’s developed a sense of responsibility

to the elderly that surround him,

a duty to comfort people

before they lose their 21 grams of soul.

 

So when one family kept him away from their dying father

because they thought the cat’s absence could somehow save him,

the cat didn’t eat for a week.

The father still died.

 

The elderly themselves are divided

in their opinion of the cat.

About half of them dread the sight of him,

always thinking he might be coming for them.

 

The ones who are really dying

have no strength to be scared of him

and welcome his presence when they see him settle beside them.

 

The old priest who tried to baptize the cat while giving himself last rites;

the lady who placed the top half of a Russian doll on his head,

believing it was a crown for the royal cat;

the tango dancer who detected

in the movements of the sleeping cat’s tail

the best dance moves dreamed up in the lands of Astor Piazzolla;

the engineer who finally put to rest his zoophobia—

they all cherished him in their own way,

they all built cathedrals within their minds

where the Cat of Death rivaled in importance

their most beloved daughters

and the old flames passing them on ships.

 

Someday he too will snuggle, his body warmer than normal,

using his tail as his own smaller Cat of Death.

There will be no noise among the elderly

frantically trying to tiptoe around the cat

in realization that now, when their own time comes,

they will have nothing soft or catlike to see them off—

just the room and the unheard echo of their last heartbeat.

 

“Cat of Death” was previously published in CityLitRag and the chapbook Neptune Court (The Operating System, 2015).

 

 

 

Anton Yakovlev’s latest collection is Ordinary Impalers (Kelsay Books, 2017). His chapbook The Ghost of Grant Wood was published by Finishing Line Press in 2015. His poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Hopkins Review, Amarillo Bay, Measure, and elsewhere. The Last Poet of the Village, a book of translations of poetry by Sergei Esenin, is forthcoming from Sensitive Skin Books. Yakovlev won the 2016 KGB Poetry Annual Open-Mic Contest and was a finalist for the Howard Nemerov Sonnet Award.  He is the current Education Director at Bowery Poetry Club.

A Poem by Taylor Tessa Lutz

 

 

 

Class Discussion

 

Later that night I held an atlas in my lap, ran my fingers across the whole world and whispered, where does it hurt? It answered: everywhere, everywhere, everywhere.”         –Warsan Shire

 

 

To the young girl in English class:

I want to gather you in my arms like air,

I want to protect you—I want to be your mother,

tell you to not make the same mistakes I once did.

But how do you hold onto a teenage girl without breaking her?

 

The world is constructed around telephone poles

stuck in the ground like thumb tacks

with strings running across a map:

we are all trying to get somewhere

or keep from finding the place we’re at.

 

Oh darling, I see the marks upon your skin.

I see how you hold yourself.

I’m talking about the hammer

we use to fix things that gets

at our very thumbs.

The broken things that break us,

the wallpaper we use to surround a crumbing heart.

 

I’m talking about the brokenness behind your beautiful brown eyes.

I’m talking about what you are hiding behind those long sleeves.

And I want you to see I’m here now:

and I’ll still be here

when the voice across the wires falls off of those trees.

 

 

 

Taylor Tessa Lutz teaches English Language Arts in Wray, Colorado and resides nearby in rural Nebraska. Her family, faith, and the taciturnity of the Midwest fuel her passion for life and writing. Lutz received her undergraduate from Nebraska Wesleyan University and was awarded the Boatright Award in Poetry. She holds a MA in English and Creative Writing. She has acted as co-editor of poetry for the Flintlock and a visiting editor for The Penmen Review. Her collection of poems, “The Seasons Reside in the Trees,” is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press.

A Poem by Akachi Obijiaku

 

 

 

I Will Try

 

 

As my fingers peel to reveal my raw and tender flesh

And I squirm for the souls of my broken nails

I wonder where all the mechanical wonders are

Praised an innovation – attacked as a threat

 

I ponder the hopelessness of my human capital

Scraping pots and pans, condemned to listen to petty banter

The things they got me doing in this kitchen

Will deliver me canker sores by nightfall

 

Scared to touch my baby boy

He, wagering whether to confront me

Ask me what happened to the girl he fell in love with

The one who didn’t return every night stinking of spoilt beans

 

And I will try

I will try to remember her

Remember my old life – how comfortable I once was

 

But looking down at my broken palms,

I shall fail – slowly, most likely, defensively

And wrap my blisters up, to heal quick for the next day

 

 

 

Akachi Obijiaku is a new Nigerian poet. She started writing poetry in 2017, and her works appear across 15 literary journals. She emigrated to England four years ago, and holds an MSc from King’s College London.

A Poem by Kelly Thomas

 

 

 

VALIDATION

 

 

I wanted Ken to like me.

As girls, we would bring him and Barbie together

for sex, my white friends and I

banging their plastic flesh together.

 

I imagined us together, his rigid fingers

caressing my thick hips.

I lying beneath him,

taking his thrusts, taking her place.

 

I wanted Barbie to watch us,

cayenne searing her plastic veins

but her grin the same.

 

Afterwards, I wanted to rest my dark

curls in the crook of his shoulder. I wanted

to pull him close, his vacant

eyes meeting mine, kiss his stiff

nose and forgive him.

 

“What I Wanted” (former title) first appeared in Efroymson Anthology.

 

 

 

Kelly Thomas is an award-winning writer, editor, adjunct professor of English (Xavier University) and the founder of Kelly Grace LLC (www.kgrace.co), a copywriting and editing agency that teaches artists and entrepreneurs how to create content that informs and inspires. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Genesis, The Efroymson Anthology and Polly Magazine. Honors include first-place scholarships from both the Antioch Writers’ Workshop and Minnesota Northwoods Writers Conference as well as a post-graduate fellowship at WordPlay, a creative writing and after-school center.