A Poem by Donna Wallace

SAND ASHCAN

 

 

Beached cigarette butts

lean into tiny groups,

the porch ashtray’s cold,

rolled stumps deep in sand—

addiction holds vigil

over a litter of spent matches.

 

Snuffed and cocked

this way and that,

they talk, recollect how it felt

to be cupped from the wind

for a splint of wood

tipped with combustion

and a flick of friction,

lit between parted lips:

we glowed in light and dark

inhaled as fire, rose as smoke.

 

They remember the pack

the cellophane tear, the smack,

fingers that pulled them,

lips that nursed them,

lungs that took them in—

the glow

the party

the chatter

the revelry

the coffee

the next day’s

light—

 

Remember when

we were tall,

life was long,

we glowed

we smoked

wanting a light

wanting to burn.

 

 

Donna Wallace (Lewisville, NC) is currently president of Winston Salem Writers and director of Poetry In Plain Sight, now a state-wide initiative placing poetry in public spaces. Her poetry has been featured in Camel City Dispatch, Poetry In Plain Sight, A Funny Thing: A Poetry and Prose Anthology, Old Mountain Press, 2015. A retired nurse and seminarian, she enjoys riding her bicycle all over the place.

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 Jayne Moore Waldrop

Coming through Cumberland Gap

 

 

The well-marked trail leads straight uphill,

crossing a stream that roars and echoes

through a cave, once a shelter for travelers.

The water cuts through generations of stone,

nine generations to be exact since my people

walked this way. My thighs and lungs strain

but I push on, shod in appropriate footwear,

swathed in tick repellant, lathered in sunscreen,

energized by abundant color and surprise along

the path. Shocking pink blossoms line redbud

branches to frame electric blue skies,

and patches of wildflowers vary with shade

or sun through the woods. How hard, I think

as I climb, it must have been to head off

into the wilderness, to find the notch between

mountains for admission to a place called

Kentucky. The path wasn’t new and it wasn’t

theirs, but one long worn by others before

we claimed it and made it our own. While I

can’t change the history of loss and taking,

the road conjures those who came before. My

eight-great-grandmother came on foot

with children who were surely hungry, tired,

and with soiled pants. Was it her idea to make

the journey? Did she believe it was her way

to a better life? Were they cold, barefoot, sick,

scared, snakebit, peaked? Her risky story makes

me feel modern, fragile, and in awe

of what it took to make it through the gap.

 

 

Jayne Moore Waldrop is a Kentucky writer, attorney and former book columnist for the Louisville Courier-Journal. Her work has appeared in Appalachian Heritage, Limestone Journal, New Madrid Journal, Kudzu, Minerva Rising, Deep South Magazine, and other journals. Her stories have been named Judge’s Choice in the 2016 Still Journal Fiction Contest and as finalists in the Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award, the Tillie Olsen Fiction Prize, and the AWP Intro Journals Project. A 2014 graduate of the Murray State University MFA in Creative Writing Program, Waldrop lives in Lexington.

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 Jeannie E. Roberts

Living the Miracle

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle;
you can live as if everything is a miracle. ―Albert Einstein

 

 

Today, I’ll live as if everything’s a miracle―

watch light dawning in waves of amber,

 

lengthening across hills and meadows,

observe maple leaves greening, widening

 

after spring rain, spot antennaria rising,

softening like toes of kittens, follow

 

danaus winging, gliding, landing

atop milkweed, regard solidago spiking,

 

tipping in golden refrain, revere osprey

ascending, diving through morning air,

 

honor robins feeding, behold life

burgeoning―for when we notice Nature’s

 

blessings, witness their divinity, every day

is nothing short of that.

 

 

 

Jeannie E. Roberts lives in an inspiring setting near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, where she writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. Her fifth book, The Wingspan of Things, a poetry chapbook, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. She has authored three poetry collections and one children’s book. Her most recent full-length poetry collection is Romp and Ceremony (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Her poems and photos appear in online magazines, print journals, and anthologies, including An Ariel Anthology, Bramble, Off the Coast, Portage Magazine, Quill & Parchment, Silver Birch Press, Verse-Virtual and elsewhere.

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 Davidson Garrett

Freudian Slipcover

 

 

Have you heard the barker of Seville?

Canine basso roughing up Rossini

under limbs of fragrant orange trees

swaying to minor keys of rhythmic traffic.

 

No great Figaro: but figure why

a loose ended howler huddled on all fours?

 

Could it be Mama, Papa, Aunt Rosina

conducting his outrageous bow-wows

from an excavated orchestra pit

inside the psychic cavern of a lost mind?

 

They say fast roulades are best sung

after rigorous hours of arpeggio practice.

Or is it in the lungs, these embellishments

of exploding notes on familial themes?

 

You know the tune, “Largo al factorum.”

Ruff-ruff-ruff-ruff—instead of tra-la-la-la.

 

Each day around noon, bark with him,

the aria of the disillusioned dog.

Afterward, hot bones will be sold—

with or without relish

 

 

 

Davidson Garrett is a poet, actor, and yellow taxi driver in New York City. A native of Shreveport, Louisiana, he is the author of the poetry collection, King Lear of the Taxi, published by Advent Purple Press, and three chapbooks, To Tell The Truth I Wanted to be Kitty Carlisle and Other Poems, published by Finishing Line Press, and Southern Low Protestant Departure: A Funeral Poem, and What Happened to The Man Who Taught Me Beowulf and Other Poems, published by Advent Purple Press.  In September 2017, his spoken word play, Conspiracy Theory: The Mysterious Death of Dorothy Kilgallen was performed at the Boog City Poet Theater Festival in New York’s East Village.