Land of Lincoln
I’ve been thinking again
about him, his profile
on Heritage Trail signs;
Land of Lincoln on cars and pickups
along all my childhood’s two-lanes.
Trailer behind the farmhouse,
yards of fireflies beneath
crab apples branches;
the lunch crowd at Lucy’s,
motels, garages, parks.
Springfield on old Route 66,
Corn Dogs on the west,
along the Sixth Circuit.
Shall we trim the honeysuckle
from the old picnic area
on 51 and have our KFC
in the remaining neglect?
Railroad lanes lonely and rusted,
Land of Lincoln and drug store postcards
four score and ten. Is it
too much to say that wild flowers
and stones themselves cry out
with malice toward none?
Abe and Jesus vie for which
we Illinois folk heard first,
saving souls or saving the Union,
crossing the Jordan or the Sangamon.
Paul Stroble teaches at Webster University in St. Louis. A former grantee of the NEH and the Louisville Institute, he has I’ve published twenty books on a variety of subjects, including three poetry chapbooks with Finishing Line Press and another forthcoming. One of his chapbooks was nominated for a Society of Midland Authors Award. His poems have appeared in Big Muddy, Tipton Poetry Journal, Pikeville Review, Springhouse, Pegasus, and others.
When You’re Small and Your Father Won’t Wake Up
Not because she ever thought about suicide but because she happened to be the one who found her parents, after swallowing handfuls of pills, one years earlier than the others. And because her mother remarried when she was still young and because that man did the same after her mother followed in her dead father’s footsteps, so to speak or at least some invisible path that led them all to the other side. And for some reason unknown to her, as if the stars or fate had a cruel vision that she should be witness to the lifeless bodies of her parents after downing clusters of pills, as if they only saw an aura of light or a chance at gladness outside their own mortal palms, as if they heard one answer and never questioned the swallowing of death, as if there was something magical about deciding their own ending and finding courage in requesting God to take you there, to a place without need or reason to breathe in air, she began to ponder if they considered who’d find them. There, with opened bottles strewn haphazardly around the floor, hands emptied but for wedding rings haloing fingers like golden broken promises before entering eternity. And she began to think somehow facing that kind of loss made her love them even more, made her life and theirs extra precious, made her lament all the years she wouldn’t see them and she wondered why only one left a note, which she kept folded beneath her pillow. Only one said he was sorry, which made her think he’d loved her enough to take one moment before to write it down, in blue faded ink, in shaky script on a tiny piece of now yellowed paper, all the words smeared from a lone tear, as if he didn’t want to, as if he might have reconsidered, as if he’d hoped someone might have found him before it was too late.
Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas lives in the Sierra Foothills. She studied at Santa Clara University where she was an English major. She is an eight-time Pushcart nominee andfive-time Best of the Net nominee. In 2012 she won the Red Ochre Press Chapbook contest with her manuscript: “Before I Go to Sleep”. She is the author of several collections of poetry including her latest book from Prolific Press, “Things I Can’t Remember to Forget”. She is the Editor for The Orchards Poetry Journal and a member of Saratoga’s Authors’ Hall of Fame. According to family lore she is a direct descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson, or at least her mother said so. http://www.clgrellaspoetry.com
Because I Never Learned Calculus
I count and multiply everything. I know
numbers, their sound reliability,
their results. I count when I brush,
thirty for each quad, each hundred I walk—
steps to the corner, steps to the mailbox,
steps to the car in the lot. I count grapes
and olives, minutes before rinsing,
seconds before rebooting, 613
pomegranate seeds. I count coins
and cookies, socks and pencils,
hands in the air, faces in the crowd,
words and stitches, hours, months and years.
I cut bread into right angles and quarters,
quilt fabric into rectangles, triangles, trapezoids.
I add fourths and thirds to my batter, double
and divide my recipes, add sums in my checkbook,
calculate unknowns. I count pinches, tads and dabs,
a bit and some, about so and not quite there. I can make
graphs, enter numbers on spreadsheets.
I can’t read the code of formulas, can’t figure
slopes or velocity, and I solve for x
in circuitous ways, too many steps,
and no proofs. I will never arrive
at an optimal profit, and a differential
for me is a gear. Change has always been hard
to accept, and I’ve never understood limits,
but eventually I arrive at what I need.
Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (Thorpe Menn Book Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas, Pouf, and The Silence of Red Glass. Poems have appeared in New Letters, Midwest Quarterly, Laurel Review, Natural Bridge, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing Witness, The Dream Book, An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation), et.al. She co-edits I-70 Review.
I am competitive except when it comes to hide and seek. As a child, anxious to be caught, I pretended to bark when really I peed. I stand beneath mauve photographs of landscapes waving these unwashed hands. Doing this barking. Big dogs bite when almost touched. Touch but do not look. I have no body to be bitten, but the bite proves the food. Let me decide how to lose. Let me confute tragedy: I ought to be man and I will be wife. Forget closets – we'll hide in urgent bathrooms, desperate to be sought before sightless nightfall.
“I do” was previously published in Third Point Press.
The Flight Home
I ride the clouds of a twilight sky,
a little bumpy, but nicely executed for a small plane
on a small flight,
with a large question hovering over me.
My son is so close, yet rows away he sits
and I can’t think what to say
or how to help him.
Geese appear in the distance
like a slow-moving arrow
their discipline, so natural
they know where to go, what’s expected, where to be.
How nice to know, and not have to think.
Tracy W. Young began to write poetry as a child growing up in Manhattan during the 1960s. Over the years she has continued to write, while raising 2 boys and working as a lawyer. The process of creating a poem is how Tracy has always found her voice to express thoughts and feelings about life, and the world we now know. She is ecstatic, although a little anxious, about finally sharing her poetry with others.
Breakfast of Champions
Galway Kinnell ate oatmeal for breakfast
made on a hot plate with skimmed milk.
With nothing to savor about the
glutinous texture and gluey lumpishness,
of his morning repast—his words—
he invites Keats to join him. But even
an exchange about Autumn or nightingales
doesn’t erase the hint of oozing slime.
Paying a little more attention to the oatmeal,
I think I’d use Irish, steel-cut oats with a
liberal addition of rum-soaked raisins before
I invited Hemingway to my morning table.
And just imagine what porridge with maple
syrup and local cream might elicit from
Robert Frost about the secret lives of
stone walls, yellow woods and even birches.
Pat Whitney is a former advertising copywriter and retired nonprofit development officer. She lives in Sunapee NH where she volunteers, creates little dinners for her friends and family beside a beautiful lake and explores her voice in poetry.
When I sit beside you in church,
I can hear you breathe,
I rarely think of you so mortally.
I can feel you lean back in the pew,
can feel the creaking wood against
your shoulder muscle and bone,
can feel the vibration of
your anxious foot.
If I glance over I can see
the profile of your face—
long nose, brown eye,
angle of jaw line,
your still and placid gaze,
dark hair falling beside.
When we stand and sing,
I can hear your voice
sound with mine.
Eyes close, hands lift—a moment sublime.
Hands fall, eyes open—
The benediction is said;
we move to leave.
We stretch our arms; we yawn and blink.
Did you forget?
You and I are finite things
on a breath.
Katherine E. Schneider is an adult ESL teacher and poet residing in Norwalk, Connecticut. She grew up in Somers, New York and attended Fairfield University for her Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and Visual & Performing Arts. Afterwards, she was part of the inaugural cohort of Fairfield University’s Master of Fine Arts in Writing. Her poetry has previously appeared in Ruminate, Blue Line, and The Poetry Porch.
A Lucky Girl
She is the youngest daughter
the good listener,
the lucky one with straight
teeth, the last born,
not often given to advice.
People tell her their secrets.
Before Dad ran off to Mexico,
with the best friend,
the older sister never had
much to say about life at Farmlands;
the high-water bungalow,
twenty-acres of tomatoes,
stewing in summer’s kettle.
How she skips right through his warnings
Don’t go down to the river.
Never speaks of the whippings,
behind the barn,
except to the little sister,
the good listener.
How it takes forever to unhook his belt,
the one with the horseshoe buckle.
How she braces for the sting
against the planks of bubbled paint.
leather to soft skin
tattoed with welts
as if she just stepped on a wasps nest,
and not out of line.
Geo. Staley is retired from teaching at Portland Community College. He inadvertently takes selfies—which sometimes work out well—and is always thankful when a poem finds a home.