A Poem by Ed Meek

Sigh

 

It’s a relief sometimes.

this single note,

from a forgotten song

carried by breath

like a wave by wind.

 

It escapes unintentionally

before you can stop it.

causing you pause

 

between thoughts

or at the tail end

of a moment—

 

an afterthought

or a prelude

or an afterword—

 

a giveaway

or maybe a clue

to life or death.

 

Isn’t that last exhale

A sigh—the wave dissipating

on an unknown shore…

 

 

 

 

Ed Meek is the author of Spy Pond and What We Love. A collection of his short stories, Luck, has just come out.

Two Poems by Arthur Russell

Unbent Trumpet

 

 

I unbent a trumpet,

looking for Andrew, my first friend,

 

to answer an ache

to a deeper joint than knees.

 

Down the tool room,

 

with a propane torch,

a hard rubber hammer and a soft steel pry

I smithied out the bends of the horn I’d played in high

school.

 

If he were in there,

I would find him.

 

The blue flame burnt the varnish

and the stout tube sweated

solder like candle wax

and the air stunk sweet with flux.

 

The valve set—all three at once—came free

in my right hand.  I regarded it

like a pearl-capped grenade

and worked the valves with stupid insistence;

watched openings align and then move out of line.

 

The horn I’d played beside him,

disintricated and unraveled,

lay in straightened heat-stained

pieces on the brown bench

like orderly bones,

 

and yet the night disputed

what my knuckles insisted

and my jaw believed;

 

so I put it back together

as a jerry-rigged telescope,

 

a four-foot clarion

without heraldic flag

and now it was nearly morning.

 

and I loved that man before he was a man.

I loved him first, before I knew my heart

 

I held the straightened trumpet up;

 

I held my eye to the mouthpiece.

 

If he were in there,

I would find him.

 

I looked up through the trumpet

toward the incandescent

basement light,

 

and I saw him,

                  down Sheepshead Bay,

 

the summer after graduation,

with a soft instrument case

hanging from his shoulder,

thick curls parted in the middle

under a newsboy cap

and whitened blue jeans

torn at the knee.

 

There were fishermen on the pier—

fileting blues on the cleaning tables;

a cigarette caught in a crevice at the faucet

smoking thickly like a punk in the moveless air.

 

He stopped in the middle of the footbridge

that crossed Sheepshead Bay

from East 19th to Manhattan Beach,

to unpack his trumpet

and licked his little mustache,

 

where the sound from his lips first imagined

the air above the bay beyond the bell;

 

and he played that bell-buoy trumpet over the

glassy listless bay

majestic among the moorings

from Emmons Avenue

to Exeter Street

 

where anyone,

anyone could have heard him.

 

 

 

“Unbent Trumpet” was previously published in Red Wheelbarrow #9, October 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

Easter Sunday Morning

 

 

A pigeon pursued by a shadow

shot the gap between buildings like a fighter plane

from the early sun toward my balcony.

Its skull rang the double pane

with a metal clang, and it fell

to the concrete floor, its grey chest heaving.

 

Specks of head feather made a circular mark

on the glass. I slid the heavy door aside.

 

The noise that fills our city courtyards

poured into my home like foam peanuts

in a shipping box.  I went outside

in my pajama pants and knelt between

the pigeon and my failed avocado,

whose chopstick crutch was stouter than the stem

I’d twist tied to it; and the bird I feared,

as a city boy, to touch, whose death

I feared to share—compassion caught like a foot

in the fork of a tree—lay breathing slowly.

 

It had a short, yellow beak with dark

striations like an old piano key,

and, at its base, instead of pince nez glasses,

waxy bulbs of whitish nostril rested.

The tiny head where it had punched the glass

swelled like the knot on a Sikh boy’s turban.

 

Its well-black eye was glazing toward milk.

 

On the next-roof-over parapet, nonchalant

and motionless, a pyramid of patience,

I saw the shadowed peregrine waiting

for the pigeon it had chased to panicked death

to die.  And I, with eyes made mother-hard,

stood and thrust my chin out at the falcon,

which turned its head to show me how its dark beak curved.

 

I reached back for the beach chair then, too intent

to turn away and set it like a tent

above the dying bird, and went inside,

and closed the sliding door behind me,

cutting off the noise.

 

The white quilt that enveloped my young wife

shown in the dark like the snow on the lawn

of our current home when I go outside

in the early dark to shovel.  I sat

on the edge of the bed.  I touched her hairline.

Our love, then, had a jigsaw fitting calm.

 

I told her I had looked up from my coffee,

seen the pigeon come, more bomb than bird,

and crash into the billboard of itself

that was our window,

and how I felt my heart at impact

shrivel like a nut sack in cold water

when the poor thing fell and lay there lifeless,

but for its twitching, tangled, scaly feet.

 

But when we reached the living room,

even before I slid the door aside,

I saw beneath the folding chair, the pigeon

where I’d left it wasn’t

there, and the dead

tree stem lashed to the chopstick, jutted

from its hilltop in the chipped clay pot;

and outside, in the noise and brick-walled courtyard,

neither on the parapet, nor anywhere,

the falcon with its terrible intent.

 

Nothing of the pigeon remained on the balcony

except the ring its head left on the door.

 

We stood that way forever; even now

we stand there in our sleep clothes, I, who saw it,

and she, who only heard of it from me.

 

 

 

“Easter Sunday Morning” was previously published in the American Journal of Poetry.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur Russell lives in Nutley, New Jersey. He won fellowships to Syracuse University and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. His poem “Whales Off Manhattan Beach Breaching In Winter” was voted 2015 Poem of the Year at Brooklyn Poets, won Honorable Mention in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Prize for 2016, and was anthologized in Bettering American Poetry, Brooklyn Poets Anthology; and Paterson Literary Review. His chapbook Unbent Trumpet was a finalist in the 2017 Center for Book Arts Letterpress Chapbook Poetry competition.

 

 

A Poem by Charissa Menefee

Ants

I.

They find me in the living room

chair, on the couch, in the bed.

 

Anywhere I am, they are.

I can never find where they get

 

in, can never track a solid line,

and they appear only when

 

I am nursing—or trying to

nurse—my newborn.

 

Emblematic of my failure, they come

for the sweet breast milk, which

 

seems to be everywhere except in this

apparently ever-shrinking baby.

 

II.

When I lift the lid off the candy dish

on the top shelf, I see wrappers, still

 

round in the middle and twisted on the

sides, but with only pockets of air inside.

 

Digging around, I find a wrapper with a

tiny ant in it, carrying a minute speck of

 

candy—sugar ants have dismantled each

lozenge, piece by piece, and stolen them.

 

How many hours, days, weeks, months

has this operation been going on, workers

 

slipping in through a sliver of air between

bowl and lid, sneaking into sealed packages?

 

III.

Why are the sugar ants here?  So that I’ll try

to get at least one more ounce of milk in this baby?

 

I can see, somewhere, a hill, astonishing in size,

made up of tiny mouthfuls of candy.

 

 

 

 

Charissa Menefee teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing & Environment at Iowa State University. Her chapbook, WHEN I STOPPED COUNTING, is available from Finishing Line Press. Her recent poems can also be found in TERRENE, ADANNA, AMYGDALA, and Telepoem Booths in Arizona and Pennsylvania. Her new play, OUR ANTIGONE, adapted from Sophocles, was premiered by Iowa’s Story Theatre Company in March.

A Poem by Elaine Reardon

Primavera Forest / Bosque La Primavera

 

This forest holds my heart

Este bosque sostiene mi corazón

 

Rio Caliente shimmers below us

a waterfall tumble with clouds of heat

 

we climb and and scramble carefully

over rocks as we cross the heated mist

 

sharp scent of pine and mesquite crackle

under our feet as the sun warms the hillside

 

below us the convent is tucked into a curve

of river where women come to heal

they are washed by the river

 

it arrives in their innermost places as the nun

muy vieja  brings vegetables herbs and prayer

 

 

The nun will look into your eyes to consider

your chances and her resources

 

Este bosque sostiene mi corazón

This river flows through my heart

 

 

 

Muy Vieja -very old

Rio Caliente— Hot River

 

 

 

Elaine is a poet, herbalist, educator, and member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. Her chapbook,The Heart is a Nursery For Hope, published September 2016, recently won first honors from Flutter Press as the top seller of 2016. Most recently Elaine’s poetry has been published by Three Drops from a Cauldron Journal, MA Poet of the Moment, http://www.naturewriting.com and poetrysuperhighway.com. Elaine lives tucked into the forest in Central Massachusetts and maintains a blog at elainereardon.wordpress.com

A Poem by Jim Bourey

Setting the Price

 

In high-summer evening-light four barefoot Amish

kids bend, pulling weeds from their garden.

My mother looks at them from the car window, smiles

at the young woman on the porch who holds a baby close.

 

I lean on my car and talk to the man of the house.

I want him to build our garage. He notices Mother,

walks to her open window. She pulls back in her seat,

afraid. He speaks softly to her, calls his children,

 

lifts each one; introduces–

Sarah,

Esther

Malachi

and Ruth.

He calls his wife. She comes, and her husband says–

 

This is Johanna and our new son David

 

Mother reaches out, strokes the infant’s silken

skin. She hasn’t said a word in months.

 

Baby. Baby. soft, yet clear.

 

The father and I set a price.

 

As we leave, Mother raises her hand and waves.

Soon the family will be inside praying,

turning down kerosene lamps,

quenching candles.

 

 

 

Jim Bourey is an old poet now living on the northern edge of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. He lived in Delaware for thirty years before this recent move. His chapbook Silence, Interrupted was published in 2015 by the Broadkill River Press, and it was selected as best book of poetry by the Delaware Press Association, and also received third place in the same category from the National Association of Press Women. His work has appeared in Gargoyle, Broadkill Review, Double Dealer and other journals and anthologies. He was first runner up in the Faulkner-Wisdom Poetry Competition in 2012 and 2016. Jim is active in promoting poetry at readings and events throughout his home area. In Delaware, he belonged to two poetry groups and was a state adjudicator for the Poetry Out Loud competition for two years. He is currently working on a collection of poems about people and places of the North Country.

A Poem by Kevin J. McDaniel

Oil Change

 

Cars swarmed archways

of the station where

the receptionist instructed

I pull beside the Nissan,

which I translated to mean

the big silver slug parked

behind the tiny blue,

 

before handing me

a folded paper

with a number stamped

in the corner,

so I could take my seat

in the congested waiting area

 

alongside

a college kid working a Rubik’s Cube

and a pregnant woman,

in green tank-top

and Daisy Dukes, bending over

to tell her toddler

be patient and wait

while the rest of us pretended

to be engrossed with Olympians jogging laps

on the mounted big screen.

 

Early that morning,

each driver drafted a shrewd plot

to avoid the rush,

but fate

put us in this purgatory

to learn

from mechanics

whose diagnostics showed

we had more problems than a routine

oil change could fix

on a Friday.

 

 

 

 

Kevin J. McDaniel lives in Pulaski, Virginia, with his wife, two daughters, and two old chocolate Labs. To date, his work has appeared, or forthcoming, in Appalachian Heritage Writers Symposium, Artemis Journal, Broad River Review, Clinch Mountain Review, Common Ground Review, Floyd County Moonshine, Freshwater Literary Journal, GFT Press, Gravel, JuxtaProse, The Cape Rock, The Main Street Rag, and others. His recent chapbook, Family Talks, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2017.

A Poem by Luisa A. Igloria

Notes Toward a History of Coaxial Cable

 

dates back to the early 1880s, that heady time

of invention when sound and light and other

 

elements were yoked to service for precise

transmission of our varied signals— So much

that now is easy to take for granted: the trucker

 

with the ham radio, the soldier clipping a walkie-

talkie to his belt, the technician who slicks warm

gel over my belly then slides a wand to render

 

the moon-surfaces of my organs via ultrasound—

The inner conductor is surrounded by a tubular

insulating layer, surrounded by a tubular

 

conducting shield, and both share a geometric

axis: which is to say, the signal looks for the path

that’s clearest or rendered most safe from possible

 

interruption; which is to say, the distance

between the thing and its intended object becomes

more unbearable with each new iteration of time

 

and space. Why do you think the inventor

of the telephone sought a way to funnel the absent

one’s voice into his ear? We speak into our

 

devices, our tapping fingers send the messages

our naked eyes and bodies alone can’t throw

across the ether. Think of how any of such

 

wonders began: as string on a lover’s telephone

spliced from two diaphragms, two cans of beans

emptied and cleaned, their ends punched to guide

 

the string or wire. And other amazements!

—those early days when ice did not even pour

out of spouts on refrigerator doors or trays

 

from the freezer, but travelled whole like scaled-

down glaciers on pallets of straw for months

in the dark holds of ships, across the world— to arrive

 

in a tropical country so the cook could put good butter

and milk and eggs into a cake, and write with sugar

a message on top: To love, To fortune, To the future!

 

 

 

 

Luisa A. Igloria is the winner of the 2015 Resurgence Prize (UK), the world’s first major award for ecopoetry, selected by former UK poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. She is the author of the chapbooks Haori (Tea & Tattered Pages Press, 2017), Check & Balance (Moria Press/Locofo Chaps, 2017), and Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass (Kudzu House Press eChapbook selection for Spring 2015); plus the full length works Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser (selected by Mark Doty for the 2014 May Swenson Prize, Utah State University Press), Night Willow (Phoenicia Publishing, Montreal, 2014), The Saints of Streets (University of Santo Tomas Publishing House, 2013), Juan Luna’s Revolver (2009 Ernest Sandeen Prize, University of Notre Dame Press), and nine other books. She teaches on the faculty of the MFA Creative Writing Program at Old Dominion University, which she directed from 2009-2015.

Author photo: Lisa Zader

A Poem by Drew Pisarra

Shoe Convention

 

There’s a crowd of me under my bed. By which I mean to say

that all my shoes have lined up  as if called for some secret

meeting about yours truly. I see them! Oh yes, they stand

in pairs — how else? — mostly brown, neatly placed, so far

back I cannot see where my ankles should be.  I can’t see

me. Some shoes point at each other. One stands

unattached, unmatched yet assuredly so.  All of them:

Size 9. They have gathered to talk or retread (haha)

the many places  I’ve faltered and failed.

 

I can break up this pedal congress though. I can reach

down and blindly pull out a boot my father bought me

at DSW in 2012. There’s something Russian about it,

this boot with its pre-weathered leather stitched

together in workmanlike rows. Alone, separated

from the group, this boot looks defiantly casual —

its laces loose, unconcerned. Its tongue curled back,

reluctant  to speak… I put the boot back . I turn back

to other things. Like words. Like words that shine.

 

Tomorrow I’m throwing that shoe and its match out.

They don’t know it but nothing is safe here, nothing.

Nothing will walk away from this defeat or despair,

last of all that damn pair. Not on my watch, they won’t.

 

 

 

 

Drew Pisarra worked in the digital sphere on behalf of “Mad Men,” “Rectify” and “Breaking Bad” but now writes plays, fiction, and poetry. His work has been produced off-off-Broadway and appeared in Poydras Review, Thin Air, and St. Petersburg Review among other publications. His collection of short stories, Publick Spanking, was published by Future Tense.

A Poem by Wren Tuatha

Tupelo Coyote

 

We were tracing Jack’s Creek

where the woods abducts it from the rolling

hills of dairy cows and tobacco.

I on the asphalt, you behind the tupelos.

 

You stalked me like a fan

afraid to ask for my autograph.

Those alien eyes,

calculating,

measuring my marrow

bend after turn, always

thirty paces aside.

 

Now you trot out in the farmlands,

legs like tobacco sticks, mapping the median line.

I am roadside, reading.

You are storybook real.

I speak to you, familiar,

as if you are the family dog.

Your answer is a glare-beam

that rips me, rights me.

 

You put me in the landscape,

that’s all.

 

 

 

First published in Canary, A Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis.

 

 

Wren Tuatha’s poetry has appeared or is upcoming in The Cafe Review, Canary, Peacock Journal, Poetry Pacific, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Baltimore Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Loch Raven Review, Clover, Lavender Review and Bangalore Review. She’s an editor at Califragile and PoetryCircle. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Lawrence Butler, herd skeptical goats on a mountain in California.

A Poem by Jessica Barksdale

New Episode of Jane the Virgin Available

 

One

 

Mind you, Mary was not the first.

Don’t forget Chimalma who swallowed the stone

that became Quetzalcoatl.

Or Maya, whose elephant dream

turned into the Buddha.

One virgin after the other, episode

upon episode of divine pregnancy,

amazing birth to a god-like child,

the mother disappearing or dying

or sitting back in wonder.

My son. Would you just look at him!

My work here is done.

And here we are, season two,

Jane clinging to her virginity like the plot point

it is, a lifeline to television immortality

and financial gain.

Whatever you do,

don’t write a penis into that scene.

 

Two

 

I had no takers until one night just before high school graduation.

There he was, at the party for the whole school,

someone I didn’t know because otherwise, no dice.

Gold in his brown hair, shirt open at the neck, some kind of necklace,

pucca. Or something silver. Coke spoon. Angel flight pants. Or jeans.

The long vinyl bench seat of my mother’s station wagon,

nothing going well, me like a clenched rock, too tight

for even magic to pass through.

But this boy was determined, and he plugged away, and I was swimming,

moving, floating on the seat, bleeding, bleeding, all that blood

from a tiny piece of skin that means so much to countless viewers.

He left, and I sat there, clutching the steering wheel,

looking out into the hazy mooned night,

even though there was nothing to wait for.

My potential miracles ripped open and thrashed in bloody streaks.

Nothing but the rest of my life, and now one less thing to give up.

One step closer to nothing.

 

Three

 

Yes to the slash of vinyl gore

and yes to the moon, round and white

on the car’s hood. Yes to the humped

and botched thing that is living,

this crawling beast of mud, looking to heaven.

 

 

 

078A40A2-B49C-4B40-A469-E3C405B43A26Jessica Barksdale’s fourteenth novel, The Burning Hour, was published by Urban Farmhouse Press in April 2016. A Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee, her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in the Waccamaw Journal, Salt Hill Journal, Little Patuxent Review, Carve Magazine, Palaver, and So to Speak. She is a Professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California and teaches online novel writing for UCLA Extension. She holds an MA in English Literature from San Francisco State University and an MFA from the Rainier Writers Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University.

Learn more about Jessica Barksdale at www.jessicabarksdaleinclan.com