Alexander Rabb CC
And do we ever arrive, I wonder? Or is it like this; that we come to be - in between what we had expected to find and what most often tends to find us. It is measured in the making of every life, not just the pain, but what comes of pain, still painful, but also different. We are not always, if ever, reborn or made magically anew. A poem is no perfect formula, no magic index.. One’s good touch cannot erase all of the wrong kinds of touch, but I believe it adds something that wasn’t there before, and that that something grows. It is voracious, hungry for love and for goodness. I am not one to say what those things are supposed to look like. They come unbidden and uniquely garbed for each of us in different ways at different times of our lives.
It turns out that I needed to be held recently, in a noisy bar, experiencing the first panic attack I have had in over a decade, someone saw that I needed more than a hug. That something that is always growing even in the midst of intense pain and uncertainty, the thing that feeds and carries us, the thing we never see coming until it is upon us. That we can be seen and felt and reassured. That we are, none of us, no matter the mounting evidence of our hard, hard years, ever alone.
And have we arrived if we’re still wondering when we’ll arrive?
In the meantime, stories heal. They heal because in the telling of them we begin to see the distance that has been traveled for what it is; a real miracle. Not Godly or angelic, but unexpected. We didn’t see it coming, that we’d make it this far. The world tried its best to convince us that we didn’t belong, and yet, and yet, here we are, you and I. Telling our stories. Singing our songs.
There are things we need and don’t yet know we need, or most often, how to find or ask for them. And there are those who are there to give it to us when we both need it most and least expect to find it. Where will my water come from, the thirsty plant wonders? And then it rains and it rains and it rains.
This February, let us remember that while a good touch/gesture cannot cure or fix us, it can hold us up when we fear we might fall hardest and forever apart. The poems and stories, the courage, the beauty and the breakdown in this month’s issue are proof of what happens when just enough light gets through. Just enough. And do we ever arrive? I suspect it’s best not to know. Not just yet.
Conyer Clayton is an Ottawa based artist who aims to live with compassion, gratitude, and awe. Her most recent chapbooks are: Undergrowth (bird, buried press), Mitosis (In/Words Magazine and Press), and For the Birds. For the Humans. (battleaxe press). She released a collaborative album with Nathanael Larochette, If the river stood still, in August 2018. Her work appears in ARC, Prairie Fire, The Fiddlehead, The Maynard, Puddles of Sky Press, TRAIN, and others. She won Arc's 2017 Diana Brebner Prize, 3rd place in Prairie Fire's 2017 Poetry Contest, and honorable mention in The Fiddlehead's 2018 poetry prize. She is a member of the sound poetry ensemble Quatuor Gualuor, and writes reviews for Canthius. Her debut full length collection of poetry is forthcoming. Check out conyerclayton.com for updates on her endeavours.
Imogen Shaw is an environmental lobbyist and final year Creative Writing MA student at Royal Holloway, University of London. Her work has appeared in several online and print journals, including The Mays and Blueprint magazine. She is passionate about social advocacy and lives in a London flat with her fiancée and a tenacious family of mice. You can follow her on Twitter @ImogenShaw_otr.
Born and raised in Sioux City, Iowa, Sadie Shuck Hinkel is a writer working full time as a high school English teacher based in Myrtle Beach, SC. She received her Bachelor's degree in English Education from Morningside College and is currently enrolled in Coastal Carolina University’s Master of Arts in Writing program.
Alexander Rabb CC
I Start with a Scratch
First memory, summer candles.
Children walk up to the windows and break you.
I will break the back of the earth, let
go of this body, deleted pastures.
I understand the importance of justice.
I start with a scratch.
We fasted, but the spirit didn’t move us.
They write: it's hard. He was wrong. And I wait for it now.
Song of the Rescue
We jumped without language enough
to describe the jump/
We ignited the difference, split
this poorly sewn city and ran/
We tightened around ourselves,
nervous contradictions with eyes like kindling/
We exploded into the winnowing distance,
so simple and intimidating/
Together we landed,
sunflower of my expression/
Together we desired faith,
the forever I’d never held /
We held each other as our yesterdays melted
like ice in the flood/
We held each other like skin holds a goosebump,
life already at our disposal.
Andrew Rihn is a writer of essays, poems, and scholarly articles. He is the author of several chapbooks, including America Plops and Fizzes (sunnyoutside press) and The Rust Belt MRI (Pudding House). Along with his wife, the writer Donora A. Rihn, he co-authored the chapbooks The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: An Election Cycle (Moria Books/ Locofo Chaps) and The Day of Small Things (Really Serious Literature). Together, they live in Portage Lakes, OH with their two rescue dogs.
Daniel Romo is the author of Apologies in Reverse (FutureCycle Press, 2019), When Kerosene’s Involved (Mojave River Press, 2014), and Romancing Gravity (Silver Birch Press, 2013). His poetry can be found in The Los Angeles Review, PANK, Barrelhouse, and elsewhere. He lives, bench presses, and rides his folding bike in Long Beach, CA. More at danielromo.net.
You know how a cat comes around
to say hello, or a racoon,
expressive eyes and hands,
and a deer is a sensitive person--
I met one in the forest out west,
larger than those I’d seen
far off, in the east,
we were feet away, frozen
and scared (each)
but looked into each other’s
eyes, and she knew
I didn’t have a gun--
and I knew the abstruse woof
of her mind,
Crimson clouds rot
low on the horizon at solstice,
darken to dry meat and
the black sky
it is as in the vast
room of many beings,
we enter through the body
and summer a while
observing cracked screens
that deliver us the horrible word
—as daylight perceptibly
shortens, a knitted
humidity disappears, leaving
leaf stains, and then it is
one degree and crimson
to a cold
Michael S. Begnal is the author of Future Blues (Salmon Poetry, 2012) and Ancestor Worship (Salmon Poetry, 2007), as well as the chapbook The Muddy Banks (Ghost City Press, 2016). His work has appeared in journals and anthologies such as Notre Dame Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Empty Mirror, Public Pool, Thinking Continental: Writing the Planet One Place at a Time (University of Nebraska Press, 2017), and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He has an MFA from North Carolina State University.
Anastasia R CC
I wish you the best
I wish you the best
in all you do but wishing never got me too far
where you were concerned, did it?
Your boots left angry imprints on my heart
that can't be filled in by midnight texts you send, high
as the mountains I'm still climbing
Everything is nothing at all when I'm up late
thinking of you and the candles you blew out, wishes
left hanging on the wind
That girl you lust after
That girl you lust after walks in on steel heels, the kind to fuck you up
because she’s used to seeing nothin’ more than a man’s back
She sails in gracious beauty of the dollar-store kind
while teetering on the edge of never-after
You see her under the neon lights of some sacred bar throne but
promises get you little more than ten minutes of unfair play
Isn’t that the point in places like these?
She isn’t something you consume no, you take her in one swallow
like a vitamin to cure what ails you even if you’re left empty-handed
I bathe myself in the well of her
worship at the altar of her thighs
chase and bleed for
rosewater and cardamom of her lips
Emmalyn Danvers is the pen name of a not-lost-but-wandering spirit. She is a librarian, lover, & perpetual observer of the world. She prefers a little coffee with her cream, dancing amidst thunderstorms, and dark literary fiction that will twist your soul.
Alexander Rabb CC
THOSE LAST IMPOSSIBLE INCHES
In which you only have to start the long walk home because your Dad comes to meet
you in his clapped out Vauxhall Corsa with a warm jumper and a take-out hot
Perhaps it will never be easy.
Perhaps we will never face the things we can’t face.
Perhaps we will never quite finish the race.
I have left the last three sips of my tea
and the chorus of that song I can’t place
humming round my head, keeps eluding me.
Perhaps it will always be the case that
after pushing myself up the mudslide of the final hill
I will still and always collapse half a breath away.
I never did send warm socks to Calais.
I never planted the seeds for that Christmas tree.
I’m still flailing with my feet in the clay.
Perhaps there are debts we can never repay.
Perhaps it’s the taking part that counts, as they say.
Perhaps we are dragged those final inches by grace.
Perhaps when all this is over I will be able to say
that I looked back to see he had moved the line for me
and painted victory on my face.
Judith Kingston is a Dutch writer living in the UK. Her poems have been published in various online magazines such as Poets Reading the News, Barren Magazine, VampCat Magazine and Fly on the Wall Webzine. Besides writing, she translates, teaches and narrates audiobooks. Follow her on Twitter: @judithkingston and Instagram: @judith_kingston.
in his checkered, red pajamas.
silent. in the bitter
his wife peers at him through the window
behind a Chinese folding screen
her hair in curlers, pulled tightly
to her head.
My neighbor coughs,
and fondles the cigarette.
ash falls like snow.
his ears, red and raw
from the cold
Linnea Cooley is an undergraduate poet at the University of Maryland
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.