A Poem by Laura Secord

In Exam Room 262

                    after Li-Young Lee

 

The trans Wiccan spiritual advisor,

who solicits sex displaying estrogen breasts

in a tight tank top, safety-pinned together;

who tosses her diva-length raspberry hair

to frame her face; who awaits a court case

win to move to L.A. and be a porn queen― she is not me.

 

The woman whose ex stalks her, breaking

her doors and windows,

jumping from a dumpster to beat her face;

who tries and fails to disguise her bruises

with ochre foundation; who fears for her life,

but won’t go to a shelter;

 

and the young woman named for a virtue,

who was trafficked out of Mali

from genocide in her country; who’s glad

the FBI now considers her a victim;

who writes her story on a library’s computer,

for lack of her own― they are not me.

 

The man who isn’t eating any more,

shrinking since he and his sister split

in anger, looking like a death camp

survivor; who assures me that God

doesn’t see self-starvation as a sin― he isn’t me.

 

Not even the student, pale and thin as smoke,

who took two jobs to support his partner, a PhD

unable to work; and buys him meth, vodka,

and cocaine; saying, Maybe we’ll marry and

he can get his green card; he wasn’t HIV

when we met— this young man, who’d give

 

anything for love— not even he is me,

but I hear his and all the other’s voices

at dawn, rousing me from dreams

of a healed world’s awakening.

 

 

 

E9865B2D-4371-4841-B0BB-72AF56299EFCLaura Secord has been an offset printer, union organizer, health care activist, teacher, and a sex-educator. For thirty years, she combined the life of a writer and performer with a career as a Nurse Practitioner in HIV care. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Sierra Nevada College. A Pushcart nominee, her poems have appeared in the Birmingham Weekly, Arts and Understanding, The Southern Women’s Review, PoemMemoirStory, Passager, Indolent Books and Burning House Press. She is the co-founder of Birmingham’s Sister City Spoken Word Collective.

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A Poem by Jamie Lynn Heller

An Entire Life

 

There’s nothing like

 

going through Great Aunt Priscilla’s house

after hospice has removed its equipment

and you’ve donated the wheel chair,

found the walker, flushed the pills,

debated what to do with an opened package

of adult diapers and her prosthetic breasts,

opened the blinds and windows to let in light and air,

found her old set of dentures,

her package of hearing aid batteries,

her crazy beaded chain attached to her reading glasses,

 

and

 

discovering a

lacy red nightgown,

stuffed in the back of a drawer,

in a style a couple of decades old,

a couple of sizes too small,

 

to remind you of

her life

before

 

 

 

“An Entire Life” first appeared in Kansas City Voices: A Periodical of Writing and Art.

 

 

 

Jamie Lynn Heller uses poetry as her caffeine.  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee (Little Balkans Review 2014) and Best of the Net nominee (805 Lit + Art 2016). Her chapbook Domesticated was published in 2015 (Finishing Line Press). She received honorable mention awards in Whispering Prairie Press Writing Contest 2012, and Kansas Voices Contest 2017, 2011. For a complete list of publications see jamielynnheller.blogspot.com.

A Poem by Vincent Francone

Mud

 

Last night we painted our faces

with mud

to tighten the skin and remove dirt from pores.

We sat the required ten minutes

you with the dog

me with a drink

then washed our faces, looked over the results:

My god, the years are erased!

We never met, we never ate pizza, drank wine

in Lisbon,

ate oysters in Mexico and in New Orleans

before beignets,

got lost on our bicycles, played rummy in a bus station,

played hooky from work,

caught a midday movie, snuck into another,

walked San Francisco,

walked the

Champs-Élysées,

cried for days on end, got caught in the rain,

overslept and lied our way out of obligation,

watched so much TV we fell back asleep

and forgot to feed the cat,

ate take out food, made a snack at 2:00 AM

got drunk in the afternoon

you on wine

me on scotch

and walked until we sweat alcohol;

we never burned food because we forgot

it was cooking

or wasted all our money or gave away our clothes

or watched your nephew grow up

or drove through Chicago for hours

because

we couldn’t stand the apartment,

and we never kissed, laughed, never teased each other,

you never told me I steal the covers,

we never said the three words

much less the two,

we never broke a promise or bought flowers

or wrote poems or replaced the shabby coats

and shoes; we never tolerated the other’s

bad breath or prostrated at the feet

of our odd bodies, we never

subsisited off peanut butter sandwiches

and fretted over back accounts

or asked the other to read an email

before we sent it, or to borrow

money until payday

or trust each other

with each other.

None of it! We got the years back.

Lucky us.

 

 

“Mud” first appeared in The Penn Review.

 

 

 

Vincent Francone is a writer from Chicago whose memoir, Like a Dog, was published in the fall of 2015. He won first place in the 2009 Illinois Emerging Writers Competition (Gwendolyn Brooks Award) and is at work on a collection of poems and stories. Visit www.vincentfrancone.com to read his work or say hi.

A Poem by Bryan D. Dietrich

THE RIFT

July 2011, Kennedy Space Center

 

Our final craft arises from one blue

and sinks into another we call true.

Deep calls unto deep, the Psalmist states,

suggesting that our blood is like the straits

we nod beside when sounding out our souls

from here, the edge of space, these restless shoals

where ships have launched toward the blackest sea,

where mothers, husbands, wives upon this lea

have watched the ones they love let go of Earth,

trajected into something too like birth,

that airless ocean where we once accreted

from waves of dust and absence, superheated,

molded, brought to being out of flood,

like Love herself from salt and foam and blood.

 

We’ve shuttled past this garden, spent our spoor

outward, always outward, always more

to fight that feeling that we may be less,

to find a balm for Gilead’s unrest.

We do not want to be here in the dark,

alone, without the hope of other ark.

We sow the upper air with lenses, mirrors,

reflecting on our existential terrors.

No, this is not the first, the last Atlantis.

We stand upon the strand like Marinatos

who stumbled on the ruins of that city.

Plato wrote about it, wrote with pity.

He also wrote of love, its rift, its scars,

of all we seek when we seek out the stars.

 

 

 

 

Bryan D. Dietrich is the author of six books of poems and co-editor of a recent poetry anthology.  He has published poems in The New Yorker, The Nation, Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, The Paris Review, Harvard Review, Yale Review, and many other journals. He has won The Paris Review Prize, a “Discovery”/The Nation Award, a Writers at Work Fellowship, and others.

A Poem by Theresa Hamman

Driving the Desert with Zep

 

We were bees once, in May

before the lilac blooms blew

away, before we were itchy,

always scratching and eating

prickly pears while our skin peeled

and twisted inside out.  We kissed

 

before our chapped lips cracked

from all that thirsty August heat,

before we rolled naked into cactus

water and wrapped ourselves in snake

skin, before we laughed

 

while the yellow desert ate us,

and its hornet’s nest erupted

into “Kashmir” and all that floating

dust, all those lilting tongues—

 

found us.

 

Do you remember?

 

We knew how to buzz once,

how to light up

before we became dead jackets,

before we became sulfured honey.

 

 

 

 

Theresa Hamman is a poet from La Grande, OR. Her poems can be found in the following literary journals and magazines: Red Savina Review, The Tower Journal, Oregon East, basalt, and Nailed. She also teaches undergraduate composition and creative writing courses at Eastern Oregon University and Southern New Hampshire University. She earned her MFA in 2016 from Eastern Oregon University, where she was also the editor of the student literary journal Oregon East. Although she enjoys writing in all creative genres, her first love is poetry. She gets lost in the musicality of it and how it bends language to create new objects.

Theresa is the mother of two grown daughters and adoring grandma to two grandchildren. When not writing, she enjoys reading, teaching, the occasional Netflix binge, and spending time with her family.

A Poem by Rosalie Sanara Petrouske

Burnt

 

Everything withered, the pear flowers

shriveled like onion leaves.

The grass beneath my bare heels

crackles as if I were stepping

on sheaves of dried corn.

My prize lily, blooming madly in June,

when the fireflies dipped

into its abundant petals

has wilted to a few crumpled leaves,

an emaciated stalk.

Rain, rain,

the blue jay screeches.

Rain whispers

the willow,

even the river is too low

to paddle.

I am grateful for the moths

thumping at the midnight pane,

for the night-flying bat.

I almost hear the earth

absorbing darkness,

the distant whistle as the train

clatters over the bridge,

trusses creaking and swaying

beneath its weight.

No breath of wind stirs a leaf.

Dry, so dry,

my mouth

thirsts for a drink,

my lips

hurt,

sore and waiting

for the kiss of water,

and my heart beats

fast and hard.

I feel it sear

with all the longing,

all the want

of a lifetime.

 

 

 

 

Rosalie Sanara Petrouske received her M.A. in English and Writing from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan.  She is an Adjunct Professor in the English Department at Lansing Community College, where she currently teaches Freshman Composition and Creative writing classes.  Finishing Line Press published her second book of poems What We Keep in 2016.  She wrote the poem “Burnt” about an unusual long and hot Michigan summer, but it’s also about want, and about the things you might want, and never have.

A Poem by Barbara Knott

LUNA MOTHS

 

I stand at my front door waving goodbye to you.
It is still morning, the light above the door
still on, and as you drive away

my one foot follows the other down three steps
as if I might catch you
until I catch myself and turn and see

there on the door frame
two Luna Moths side by side in a green glide
wing tips touching when they stop to rest

and to arrest my eye
and say
in their lovely soundless way:

Hasten slowly through your life.
Lose no part of this miraculous
luna green morning.

 

 

 

In 2009 Barbara Knott’s poem “Boxwood” was selected by Judge Nikki Giovanni as first-prize winner of the New Millennium Writings Awards 28 prize for poetry. In 2010 Francois Camoin chose her short story “Song of the Goatman” as third-prize winner in the Writers at Work fiction competition. Barbara’s chapbook of poems Soul Mining was published in 2011 by Finishing Line Press. Another chapbook, MANTA Poems, came out in March 2015, also published by Finishing Line Press. Her short story “The Legend of Abigail Jones” received first prize in the wild card category of Atlanta Writers Club’s Spring 2014 competitions. Barbara was selected with a group of poets to represent FLP as readers at the Abroad Writers’ Conference in Dublin, December 2015.

She has a Ph.D from New York University’s drama therapy program. While in New York, she studied acting with William Hickey at the Herbert Berghof Studio in Greenwich Village and did extensive work in theater and in Montessori education for pre-schoolers. On her return to Atlanta, she became co-director of the Center for Archetypal Studies and served terms as program chair and then president of the C. G. Jung Society while practicing therapy for five years before entering a fulltime teaching career in English and humanities. Now retired, she gives full attention to writing and collaborative arts performances and to editing and publishing The Grapevine Art and Soul Salon, online literary/art journal at http://www.grapevineartandsoulsalon.com.