My mom sits, does it
without thinking cast on
while doing other things
slip one, knit two. I watch as
she tears it out. Starts over
cast on, back loop, slip, slip, slip.
I want to ask why, but I can’t.
She seems to prefer starting over
to finishing—the journey to the
destination continue, purl through
back loop. I think, maybe chasing handspun
perfection is the product—the only one
that matters anyway stockinette
stich, reverse, repeat. Couldn’t be
the few hand-knit clothes I had.
By not asking out loud, I’ve become a participant
through back loop, together, skip, continue.
My ears become her hands, hypnotic rhythm,
as I watch the aluminum needles click.
I think about the mind’s tether,
our hands kept busy escaping.
AR Dugan has an MFA in creative writing from Emerson College. His poetry can be seen or is forthcoming in a number of literary magazines and reviews, most recently Woven Tale Press. He taught high school English in southeastern Massachusetts for nine years. AR reads poetry for Ploughshares and currently teaches literature and writing at Emerson College and Wheaton College. He lives in Boston. ardugan.com
Like a used book in the library free bin,
you’ve become an overlooked thing
that no one wants to check out anymore.
But I’m one of the few people left
who can read you differently;
remember the minor scandals caused
when you walked past the snack stand
at Washington Park
in a wet t-shirt pressed
over a light-blue bikini.
Your mania gave birth to a body
which spoke with warped energy
and chromatic fragrance
in a voice misunderstood
by all but my most ancient self.
Yet still, your touch thuds with the essence
of unrealized destiny,
a technique taking us to
the place where undertakers
choose to congregate
in a muddy huddle
deciding whether what remains of us
needs to be frozen or embalmed.
Neither of us ever thought
we’d see the death of print
or the desirability in each other;
couldn’t have imagined
that the sun would stop slavering
Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He lives in Crystal Lake, IL, USA with his wife, Vickie and daughter, Sage. He is a three-time Pushcart, Best of the Net and Best of the Web nominee whose work has appeared in more than fifteen hundred publications.
First the bulbs from a third grade
school catalog that quietly
died in cracked coffee cups,
then, propped on toothpicks,
the avocado pit
stretching its desperate roots
into stale water before
bidding farewell to the disgruntled potato,
too busy rotting to notice,
next came the goldfish and hamsters,
showered with attention and treats
until they too keeled over.
And so we taught
our city children responsibility,
the wonder of life-giving forces,
how to cope with disappointment,
the art of pushing on.
“Metropolitan Farming” is from my FLP Chapbook Sounds Of Morning
For years Anita raced from a New Jersey tennis court at 7 am to a legal court in NJ or Manhattan or to her law office in Brooklyn. The most poetic writing she encountered was not hers but that of an adversary who wrote, “The plaintiff’s argument holds no fruit.” Happily, when she retired she traded legal writing for poetry. Anita’s poems have been published in many journals and in four anthologies as well as three poetry chapbooks and recently her first full length book The Butcher’s Diamond, all of which were published by Finishing Line Press.
The Return of the Woolly Mammoth
You rarely wore it,
though you yourself chose the color, midnight blue,
and knee-length cut. In derision, you named it
“the woolly mammoth,” pointing to its Pleistocene proportions.
Still, at each sign of snow, I nagged you to wear it.
The last time I saw you,
you confessed you’d have to give it away.
“Not one more winter,” you swore.
Yet when you chose it once more,
were you thinking of me?
Last of its species, the mammoth was hunted
In a different Ice Age, it took you down
under the cold waters
of the dam, and sure enough, kept you down,
sodden, for a month,
until you surfaced, found.
I like to think of you buttoned up,
and until the last
its boxy bulk somehow
kept you unaware,
insulated from creeping cold discovery.
This poem first appeared in Streetlight Magazine.
A note from the poet: This poem is part of a larger collection of elegies I’m assembling that focus on the recent loss of my son.
A graduate of Vassar College, I hold an MFA and doctoral degree from the University of Iowa. In addition to attending the Sarah Lawrence Summer Writing Institute for several years, I was accepted to the Bread Loaf Conferences in both Middlebury and Sicily in 2016 as well as the Sewanee Writers’ Conference this year. This year marks the fourth that I have been honored to be a scholarship participant at the Frost Place Summer Writing Program.
My poetry has appeared or is upcoming in apt, Bluestem Magazine, Broad River Review, The Cape Rock, Chicago Quarterly Review, Delmarva Review, The Dickinson Review, Juked, Lindenwood Review, Menacing Hedge, The Midwest Quarterly, OxMag, Pennsylvania English, The Round, Schuylkill Valley Review, Storyscape, Streetlight Magazine, Talking River, Zoned, and Westchester Review, among others, while my dissertation was published as Writing Reconstruction: Race, Gender, and Citizenship in the Postwar South (University of North Carolina Press, 2015). My chapbook, Black Wick was a semi-finalist for the 2018 Tupelo Snowbound Chapbook Contest.
If People Were Safe
It was another bitter winter in Northern Virginia.
He was making music and I was stocking make-up
and we were both teaching classes, still learning each other
when the snow started to come down around us.
They were tiny flakes at first that piled up fast.
We watched the sheet of snow grow to five inches
before they cancelled all of our classes.
We stayed up all night waiting and wondering
if people were safe and wishing it would never stop
so that we could stay in that house together.
The next morning, we awoke to the shining,
white silence that accompanies two feet
of fresh snow still-falling in February,
the cold month of my birth.
Our unexpected freedom meant that we’d been gifted
a real breakfast without restraint:
no molasses granola bars or bruised fruits,
we would make a breakfast feast
with soft-fried eggs and uncured bacon,
dishes that take time. The best item would,
of course, be his secret recipe
Belgian waffles with big squares and marshmallow mouth feel.
I poured mimosas and watched the snow
while the seasoned batter baked in his special
ron skillet that browned the batter around the edges,
leaving behind a vanilla aroma that lingered
in the living room for days after the first forecast.
We touched toes on the couch while we consumed
the meat and sweets that were normally reserved
for the weekend, when we had time to appreciate decadence.
Maple syrup stuck my tongue, making me forget the days to come.
Doctor Alyssa D. Ross is native to Guntersville, Alabama, though she studied art and literature in Northern Virginia for many years. While teaching at George Mason University, she attained her MFA in Creative Nonfiction. She later earned a PhD from Auburn University where she now teaches Composition, Literature, and Technical Writing. Her educational endeavors also include teaching writing classes for the Alabama Prison Arts + Education Project. Representative publications include nonfiction, poetry, fiction, digital texts, and hybrid work. Her writing has appeared in Meat for Tea, Vine Leaves Press, Phoebe Journal of Literature and Art, The Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Shanti Arts Quarterly, and Hawaii Pacific Review, among others.
You Will Not Make Relics
This time Le-Ah brought flowers. She wrapped
them in oiled paper to discourage
the black flies, the army ants, the
rampaging legions of the under core – set
to work their spell. This chained plot she named
her garden, not hers really
just plowed and pruned by one blunt-cut grandmother
dressed in cotton and knit socks, one
to face. Yet the gardening gloves
fit hand to glove like a
never saw the irony in the empty day. There were clouds
obscuring the sun and their eyes gazed sideways –
Now the day is daylight’s end.
There are no geese to separate,
their plucking subdued – the light
closed in cloud cover – the shade
clear across the yard of sandgrain and
slide. Le-Ah slips
away, dogged to stealth
in the corners of traffic – last feed
last peat ember – bed and food
a reluctant camouflage.
The condo in Xi’an was spacious, the garden cool and
two flights down. In summer
insects flew, finding the pinholes
in the kitchen screen. But room to wander
Movement to a space framing absolution,
cheek by jowl enumerated – and slip-streaming site by site,
small, one key cut the illusion
of security. The papers of note keep
company decomposing watermarks,
fingerprints under black light
the milestones and threshold markers,
the mule’s retort. Joint tenants
of an old world
limned by paper.
The sand has a voice, the raptors,
the wings of falcons sheering cloud wool.
The spring coats of young camels, the males.
In Xi’an the desk drawers opened
and closed, the fires banked, the windows oiled
hinges oiled, newsprint, cleaning casements
with vinegar, its presence loud, loud
the street traffic, the feet of females prosaic and secular,
the males bouncing angels’ virtual choirs.
Dinner tables and low-riding clouds
in spring. Basso profundo, the fathers and brothers,
the sons by marriage, like clouds interred.
The grounding horizon, the limit line –
a scarab that entered the wrong
ear, the wrong untraveled
voyagers, the singing higher, the loss
and hormone and sheer
C.M. Clark’s poetry has appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly, Metonym Literary Journal, The Lindenwood Review, Spire Light, Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry & Prose, the South Florida Poetry Journal, and Gulf Stream magazine, and will be featured in Demeter Press’s forthcoming anthology, Travellin’ Mama. Clark was runner-up for the Slate Roof Press Chapbook Contest and Elyse Wolf Prize, and a finalist for the Rane Arroyo Chapbook Series. She also served as inaugural Poet-in-Residence at the Deering Estate Artists Village in Miami. Author of full-length works, Charles Deering Forecasts the Weather & Other Poems (Solution Hole Press, 2012) and Dragonfly (Solution Hole Press, 2016), Clark’s most recent collection, The Five Snouts, was published by Finishing Line Press (2017).