A Poem by Randall Brown

Debt

 

         I sit the kids in the family room, start talking about the 1979 Pirates, how they’d won a championship with this song “We are Family” by Sister Sledge. I tell Rachel I don’t know what a sledge is; I tell Noah I’m getting to the point.
         I say I’m trying to tell them how their grandmother wanted a Cosmopolitan magazine; the final game of the series was on; there weren’t DVDs or ways to see it again. She told me I had to bike to the Pensupreme to get this magazine. She wouldn’t let up, ended up trying to drag me up the stairs by my hair.
         You want us to hate her, Noah says. Rachel wants to know if I got her the magazine. Yes, I tell her. But it was the wrong month, one she already had.
         And? Noah asks.
         I went back, got her the right one.
         I would never do that, he says. That’s because you’re mean, Rachel says to him.
         I paid for it with paper route money, I tell them. And that’s why I can’t just give you the money for I-Tunes.
         Whatever, Noah says. He’ll clean his room, though, if it matters that much. And Rachel will fold laundry, maybe take the dinner dishes away.
         They’re both sorry they asked. Stargell would stand at the plate and swing that bat like a windmill and I didn’t have to get that magazine but I did. Why?
         I wanted the world to owe me something.

 

 

 

 

Randall Brown is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live, his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, and he appears in the Best Small Fictions 2015 & 2017, The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, and the forthcoming Norton Anthology of Microfiction. He founded and directs FlashFiction.Net and has been published and anthologized widely, both online and in print. He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. He received his MFA from Vermont College.

A Poem by Seth Jani

The Cottage Rows

 

 

The trees are just themselves,

Green and decisive,

And they have absolutely

Nothing to say.

The child walks beneath them

Following the line of shadows

With his hand.

No one can explain to him

How the trees change colors

Without being angry or sad,

How sap circulates through their bodies

And is transmuted into delicate

Drops of gold.

Those lush sentinels

Devoid of any ego or “I”

Are all it takes

To strike the heart with silence.

How then to tell him

That such miracles

Simply happen?

That the apples

Filling with sweetness

Are a plain and living truth?

 

 

Seth Jani currently resides in Seattle, WA and is the founder of Seven CirclePress (www.sevencirclepress.com). His own work has been published widely in such places as The Chiron ReviewPretty Owl PoetryEl Portal, Phantom DriftCommon Ground Review,The Hamilton Stone Review, Kaaterskill Basin Literary Journal  and Gravel.

His chapbook, In The House Magisterial, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. Visit him at www.sethjani.com.

A Poem by Rachel Custer

Field

 

 

Summer day like a held breath, like held words

in a woman’s mouth, like a woman’s mouth stopped

by a chafed palm. Day like a chafed palm beneath

a work glove. A work glove hung from electric wire.

Electric wire pulsing above a house. Where there is

a house, there is a straight road beside a house,

and where there’s a straight road, there’s a road’s

end. What does the city know of the road’s end? City

a perfumed woman with crossed arms. City a man

faced seaward. City man never need to think about

roads, and who make money into roads, and who

make money out of living. Who pave a living over

dirt. What does the dirt know of a knot of streets?

Where every way becomes every other way, every

day leads to another day of chasing a road that never

lets day rest. Country a hard woman, city held to her

breast. Country a woman alone at the end of a way.

Eyes running hard from field to darkling wood,

from wood to the back lawn where her children play.

Here, where a woman’s breath makes a summer day.

Here, where a word held home is still thought good.

 

 

 

Rachel Custer‘s first full-length collection, The Temple She Became, is available from Five Oaks Press. Other work has previously been published or is forthcoming in Rattle, The American Journal of Poetry, B O D Y, [PANK], and DIALOGIST, among others.

A Poem by Kevin Dobbs

Nothingness

 

 

In art history class

My late brother Sam placed

 

On the overhead a photo

He’d taken of a small shack

 

In the middle of Death Valley

On which somebody had

 

Painted in white the word “It.”

Sam, filled with young-man

 

Resolve, declared to the full hall

That he and only he

 

Had found “It.” Everyone applauded.

I, thirty years later and

 

Filled with fear and angst,

Declare to humankind

 

That I have found “nothingness.”

I know this. It’s not in my mind.

 

It’s here in Qatar just across

The Persian Gulf from Iran. Not that I

 

Dislike Iran as does my government

Which distrusts any ancient culture

 

Whose women do not readily play

With its soldiers. Thousands are

 

Stationed just down the road

From Al Ruwais—or what I call

 

Nothingness—where they await

An official change in policy.

 

Don’t confuse this searing

Surface mining town with Hell.

 

Al Ruwais has decent hummus

With flat bread and cucumbers, a few

 

Children, a Shisha bar, some palm trees,

Open-pit grinding and crushing machines,

 

Chutes and sifters. Awash with

Powdery-white sand and minerals, Al Ruwais

 

Is the explosion of a trillion bones:

Know that this is what it is

 

And you will know nothingness.

 

 

 

Kevin Dobbs has lived in the USA, Japan, China, the UAE, and Qatar. He’s published poetry, fiction, and essays, internationally, in literary journals and anthologies. With poetry forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry and recent poetry in Painted bride Quarterly and Interlitq (The International Literary Quarterly), he’s placed poems in Chelsea, New York Quarterly, Carolina Quarterly, Poet Lore, Sou’wester, Gulf Stream, Faces in the Crowds (anthology, Tokyo), New Delta Review, Maverick Magazine, The Journal (England), Writer’s Forum, Florida Review, etc. His fiction and essays have appeared in Raritan: a Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, Sou’wester, Beloit Fiction Journal, Bluestem (formerly Karamu), and many more. Besides writing, Kevin is a university professor and was involved for many years in labor and civil rights activities in Asia as well as NGO volunteer work. Currently, he lives in California, USA.

A Poem by Amy L. George

The Stopping Places

 

 

There’s a road on every tombstone.

 

A journey is traced

in a single dash

from when light enters eyes

to the moment it leaves.

 

The length of the trip

doesn’t matter as much

as the exits we take,

the shoulders we rest on,

the stars we gape at,

the hands we find to hold

at the stopping places.

 

It’s at the stopping places

where our breath catches in our throats

at scenic overlooks, as we inhale

the wildness of the world,

drink in sights and faces

in the warmth of the sun,

and sometimes,

clutch each other tightly,

as we are drenched in rain.

 

The road winds

onward,

stretching out before us.

 

Best travel light while we can.

 

 

 

Amy L. George holds an MFA in Creative Writing from National University. George is the author of The Stopping Places (forthcoming March 2018, Finishing Line Press), Desideratum (Finishing Line Press), and The Fragrance of Memory (Amsterdam Press). Her poetry has been published in various journals, such as Kyoto Journal, Pirene’s Fountain, Up the Staircase, and others. She teaches courses in fiction and poetry at Southwestern Assemblies of God University.

A Poem by Heather Corbally Bryant

The Easterly

           For CH

 

 

The easterly, you say, will be coming in today,

This afternoon—I like the way you say easterly

With such certainty—the way you know the

 

Tides—when they will rise and when they will

Fall—when they will come in and when they will

Go out—but it is the way you say easterly that

 

Touches me—the way you know this land, this

Sea, this shore with complete certainty—the

Currents of water are etched in your mind,

 

Time after time—the sands, the winds, the rain—

The moons, the dredges, the shipwrecks, the

Ocean lives in your mind for all time—today,

 

As we cross sandy cove you look seawards and

Say yes, yes, the easterly will be coming in today.

 

 

Heather Corbally Bryant (formerly Heather Bryant Jordan) teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. She received her A.B. from Harvard, and her PhD from the University of Michigan. She has given academic papers and poetry readings in Ireland throughout the United States.

She published How Will the Heart Endure: Elizabeth Bowen and the Landscape of War,” (University of Michigan Press, 1992). She also has six books of poetry either published or forthcoming: Cheap Grace, The Finishing Line Press, (2011); Lottery Ticket, The Parallel Press Poetry Series of the University of Wisconsin Libraries (2013); Compass Rose, The Finishing Line Press (2016). My Wedding Dress, her first full-length volume of poetry was published in 2017, and Thunderstorm, her second full-length volume, was published from The Finishing Line Press in 2017; later in 2017, The Finishing Line Press published her chapbook, Eve’s Lament. Her work of creative non-fiction, You Can’t Wrap Fire in Paper, will be published in early 2018, as well as her new forward to the reissue of her grandmother’s autobiography, Assigned to Adventure, originally published in 1938.

A Poem by Keith Moul

ROMANCE FADES

 

 

A Canadian Pacific train today rolls by

With protracted sounds that grind steel

On steel; these echo hello as soon goodbye.

 

These are not sounds I recall from childhood;

These sounds clarify political intentions, as

Tomorrow this train, full now, goes north empty.

 

In my town today, railroads’ romance has ended;

The whistle breathes its oath through local hills

Of grim necessity: the wheels roll out, you know,

And if only for the track, the wheels must roll back.

 

Antipathy seethes at local bars.

At home, paint peels in life-giving sun;

Paint fails its warranty.

Fruit rapidly browns too much to eat.

 

Love the idea of railroads to create towns,

To link across this broad America, here

Where the whistle wails its ironies.

Workers have dug graves along the routes.

 

 

 

 

Keith Moul’s poems and photos are published widely. Finishing Line Press released a chap called The Future as a Picnic Lunch in 2015. Aldrich Press published Naked Among Possibilities in 2016; Finishing Line Press released (1/17) Investment in Idolatry. In August, 2017, Aldrich Press released Not on Any Map, a collection of earlier poems. These poems are all from a new work about prairie life through U.S. history, including regional trials, character, and attachment to the land.

A Poem by Autumn Meier

This One Should Rhyme

 

 

They say the universe was once so close

That the space between atoms was erased

And the true meaning of intimacy arose

As the first particles united, unchaste

 

Time, matter, and energy combined

As the knotted thread of life began

And in a story oddly predesigned

I think you were there, holding my hand

 

The explosion saw the dust of stars

Scatter through the vast landscape of space

And like the puff of slow cigars

The scene evolved like gently-worked lace

 

Our atoms were lost in the cosmic dance

But for billions of years the search never ceased

I knew we would once again meet by chance

And the heaviness of time would be released

 

Then—in a little coffee shop, on the outskirts of Kyiv,

I understood why, all these years, I’d believed.

 

 

 

 

Autumn Meier‘s work can be found in Straight-Up Magazine and Carcinogenic Poetry. She lives in Waxahachie, Texas with her husband and 438 books.

Two Poems by Robert Knox

The Leaf Washers

“The plants eat light.” From Michael Pollan’s “How Smart are Plants?” in the New Yorker

 

Yesterday we washed the leaves

Today they salute us

Reaching out, waving their storybook lives

Like the pages of a book

Fluttering long fingers

Beckoning, or speaking the gesture language

Heavier creatures invent upon their fingers

They pulse their high wire stories through the air waves

 

The leaves live in the air, the air is home, shelter, food for them

The current of breath that fills my senses

Orders time for the dance of the hours

The leaves make time for us, filtering the world

The minutes emerge from pores and make sense for us,

Slow as the waves of the world

They save the voices of the children

They lie still before the whine of the engines

To still them is to deafen the magic

They droop like ears silenced by the humdrum of machines

They turn the salutes of the hours into triumphs of air

They sluice and filter the music of the world

They are the companionate senses of the wild green earth,

A bowering neighbor,

A grotto of tuned and tasted pleasure, pre-digested by fertility,

A porous protection, a second self

They guide the sun to my temple

I am—we are—within the village of the world,

Inside temples among the jungled cities

The leaves salute our fellow travelers in their journeys through the sky

As friends, superiors in life, elders, survivors of earlier days

They know where they situate is all the world

They mediate the base of things, the fundamentals,

Molecules, waves, atoms, energy-matter—the rain in Piccadilly,

The fountains of Beirut, the voices of the stars

 

 

 

As A Tree

 

 

Tannish tassels smudging the plants,

bedecking leaves like off-color tinsel,

a plague of dust tarnishing the green.

Mannish flowers these, gifts of the oak,

a thing made all of secrets.

You never see it sleep, or shout, or breathe, or blow, or natter

or rumble, or do anything.

The wind “does.” The birds leap and shout.

Leaves appear. Branches fall.

Catkins parachute softly in the spring,

a daring raid behind enemy lines; success assured by numbers.

The oak is ever that which is, not that which shows

in its becoming.

It is always being a tree.

Surely we all have heard this moralized explanation of “giving”—

these theatrically magical seeds

these time-lapse photographs of “stages”:

the seedling with the corny hat, a sproutling, a slender sapling (like a boy with a bat),

branches that shoot outward like crosses

held against the terrors of a world of fire, seething winds, clinging ice,

quaking thunder, shaking earth.

Time passes through the tree.

It perseveres in thereness, wise in the way of treeing.

We encounter, witness, regard, visit,

become what we will, in our endless evolutions.

The oak always was what it will be

whenever I behold it:  then is now.

 

 

 

 

Robert Knox is a Boston Globe correspondent, a poet and fiction writer, and the author of a recently published novel based on the Sacco and Vanzetti case, Suosso’s Lane. As a contributing editor for the online poetry journal, Verse-Virtual, his poems appear regularly on that site. They have also appeared in Every Day Poet, Off The Coast, Houseboat, Yellow Chair Review and other journals. His chapbook Gardeners Do It With Their Hands Dirty (Finishing Line Press) was published in May 2017.

A Poem by Richard King Perkins II

An Astounding Perimeter

 

It’s not a dream

but a slightly bygone world

covered in frozen mist.

 

Sparrows alight on the small shoreline

of an astounding perimeter—

a sanctum whispering in white.

 

I study the icebound bracken and reeds,

gazing past the embankment

to this vacancy of snow where your car once slept.

 

In the old meeting place, I still look for you—

where our conversations spilled upon gentle light;

simple confessions of twigs and soul.

 

But we’re left with only a few desperate sentences;

having spoken of things to deny or embrace,

the evergreen ghosts of our endless north country.

 

Now you’re stranded on a bridge in St. Louis

with no money and no credit cards

and your passenger side window broken out.

 

I’m in the bristling pines laced ivory

where someone once wrote a song about you;

how your eyes extinguished sensibility,

how your eyes painted light into every corner of darkness.

 

Can you recall how desperately we believed

that the return of robins and sharp shadows

could change everything;

that crocuses would ignite life in themselves?

 

 

 

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 a thousand publications.