Gerry Dincher CC
PRAYER FOR MY SICK DAUGHTER
There are people in the wind like doctors.
That’s what I hope. They are carried here
by the color of their hollow eyes. I tell
myself I will talk to the trees more, ask them
to help my daughter breathe. Why is it so
hard to breathe. Eight months of coughing
is not normal for a 5-year-old. She tells me
she doesn’t want to die the way the sun dies.
Every night, I find myself outside on the
balcony begging the trees. Calling the trees.
Connect your fucking roots. Communicate
with each other. Fill her lungs. Promise me.
A sunlight transfer body to body. We become
the trees hovering in human form. A dance
for my 5-year-old and me. Coughing and
sleeping. Sleeping and coughing. The
machine prescribed: a little dog shaped
nebulizer we can name, pretend to be her
friend strapped like a mask keeping medicine
in. Making it all easier the way hands connect
bodies in the woods. Make me believe it's
only allergies getting better. Watch her ribs.
I skip a rock in the pond just to watch it ripple.
I say it’s a good thing. The wind just blows.
Amanda Adrienne Smith is a poet and actress living in Los Angeles, CA. Her poetry has been featured in Ghost City Review, Right Hand Pointing, and One Sentence Poems. You can find her on social media @amandaadrienne.
Gerry Dincher CC
The Old Shop
When I went back to the shop
That had been his before he died
And now was owned by someone else
Who worked behind the desk that he’d
Had carpenters make decades back,
In the chair where he had sat,
And in their lap, wrapped in towel,
Held and groomed a yellow nape
While sharing gossip on the phone,
And as I walked in looked at me
With a smile I knew before,
That same glance that shrewdly judged
If I was there to buy a bird
Or waste part of his afternoon
I thought how fully we unpack
When we travel out of life,
Leaving furniture and work,
Smile and gaze and attitude,
How we sit and what we think
For someone else to find and be
Until they leave it all and go,
And I wondered suddenly
Who had previously been me,
Used these gestures, known these thoughts,
Heirlooms handed down through time,
And before them, and before them,
Picked up and used and left behind
For the general human store
And for a minute I was there
With who was gone, in his no-more,
Traveling lightly, freed from all
That had made us travelers
And all there was, was traveling.
After every friend had died
I moved out from the building where
I’d known them all, to a new place
Up in the hills, a single life.
Days were pretty full in terms
Of occupation, though you’d think
It would be just the opposite--
Empty hours, empty life.
No. Crowded sadness all the time,
With no way to take a break.
One morning opening the blinds
I saw three stars shine side by side,
Recalled I’d always meant to learn
Something of the constellations
So bought a book about the stars.
That night I climbed four flights up
And came out on the roof. The sky
Was dim and dull, not as deep
As I’d always thought it was
And the stars were nothing much,
Crumbs of light dropped here and there.
But I saw the three I’d seen
And from there traced Orion out,
A mildly pleasing figure
A little like an hourglass.
As I had nothing else to do
I came out next night as well,
Brought a notebook so I could
Chart Orion for myself.
That was pleasant, to have him there
On the page and in the sky.
Later I wrote in the names
Of the stars that made him up--
Betelgeuse and Bellatrix,
Rigel in his lower corner.
And so, why not? Every night
I went out among the stars
Though couldn’t travel far at first.
Somehow that’s what I liked best,
Knowing they could not be reached
But going towards them anyway.
I was glad they all had names
That I could memorize and say--
Sirius and Procyon,
Deneb and Albireo--
Each star by itself, in silence,
But included in a picture,
A swan, a large and lesser dog,
Eagle carrying a boy.
I loved the way their stories had
Nothing to do with me, or grief
Or anyone I knew who’d died
Though when I charted Gemini
Whose twin stars stood beside the door
Of a longhouse I thought it would
Make a good safekeeping place.
What a joy to leave the earth
And simply go out there among
Giant people made of space
In stories that went on forever.
I loved the way they were alive
But also places I could be,
Perseus, the Pleiades,
The Hyades and Pegasus.
I bought a telescope and saw
Orion was made out of scenes
I didn’t have to understand
But watched astonished all night long.
The Praecepe in Cancer was
A hallway thronged with galaxies
And hidden back in Leo’s flanks
There was an empty room in which
Anyone could come and sit.
The constellations in their mild
And diamond light were graciously
Uninterested in human life,
Indifferent. They didn’t want
To know why everyone I loved
And took care of died at last,
Why I was always somewhere else
So that each one died alone.
They didn’t care, and let me roam
Deep as I wanted into vast
And mildly glowing space where I
Could be relieved of mattering,
Be witness to their stories which
Continued whether seen or not.
Lepus fled and Lyra flew,
Cassiopeia changed her clothes,
His two Dogs brought Orion down
But each night he was up again.
Each of them was everything.
Does that make sense? Expanding space
Was what they were between their stars
Where I ran out while they went on
To ends or else to endlessness
But either way too much to see,
To hold in mind, and so instead
They carried me. I got to rest,
For months and months, and be no one.
Meanwhile somewhere down below,
The ground slowly dissolved the dead
Turning them into the ground.
Perhaps this increased gravity,
And let it reassert its claim?
What I knew was that I’d learned
The constellations and their stars
And so returned to daytime life
Where, middle aged, I was a guy
Who’d been knocked down by stacked-up loss,
Now had to get upright again,
Find a road to what came next
And plod along it step by step
As we all do, who walk the earth.
Peter is a queer psychotherapist, previously working in community mental health and HIV/AIDS, now in private practice in Portland and Los Angeles. He is the author of two books, Gay Fairy Tales (HarperSanFranciso 1995) and Gay Folk and Fairy Tales (Faber and Faber, 1997). Recent work appears or is upcoming in Adelaide, Kestrel, Third Wednesday Quarterly, Syncroniciti, 1870 Journal and the Writers Study anthology. He has lived through addiction, multiple bereavements and the transitions from youth to midlife and midlife to old age and believes you can too.
Carl Wycoff CC
THE ONLY GHOST IN THIS HOUSE IS THE HOLY GHOST
needling the hurricane's eye
on the cereal box couch
at the punk house as people honk
at the HONK FOR JESUS banner.
possums are always fucking
under the porch, which is to say
i'm always imagining possums fucking
under the porch as i leaf through
medical bills mailed to renters past.
checked all the boxes
at the plasma donation center
but still couldn't find the vein.
pitching herbal remedies
for incurable diseases until they run me off
the stoop of the free clinic, skin
sloughing off a redbud as sunlight
angles in from the well's fargo tower.
my cabal of therapists, stationed
across from me at the howard johnson's,
all tell me that the self is an illusion. steam
rising from flapjacks, syrup all flood,
clay spilling into a river.
i am making this groupchat
to present amends to all those i have harmed.
financial remunerations are not in order
but i would like to offer my sincerest apologies:
greg, for having stolen your dog's pain medication.
mike, for having accused you of usury
during the divorce court proceedings.
sarah, for having erased your child's object permanence
in fit of rage.
for the rest i will offer the following from a fortune cookie
i found on the sidewalk:
YOU WILL BECOME GREAT IF YOU BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.
i have put my shipping magnate fortune
into the lucky numbers. i can feel
the pure throttle of consciousness
as i close my eyes while i drive down
the highway named after a dead marine.
morally compromised sonnet
spent my two months in the gig economy ferrying
buckets of chicken to condominiums and not getting laid.
went to the maoist reading group for the free lentils
and listened to fred talk about how we had to smash the state
to make a bigger state. the parks smelled like suntan lotion
and i hated everyone. jet streams carried charred pines
over the suburbs and children wandered around, ash-beaten
survivors of some unseen catastrophe. under pomegranate skies
teslas maneuver through lanes of traffic. too humid here
for sweat to dry, the weather report a wet bulb swung
into your face. plastic forks, pad thai cocooned in a bag hewn
from cellulose, heat-bonded, palmed over like a thimble of weed.
hard to shake, this feeling of being born too late. the electric
razor makes a noise like threshers advancing into wheat.
ethan s. evans (they/them) is a poet trapped inside of a brief third person bio. they tweet as @ethanevanssucks
Carl Wycoff CC
Lysander Reads The Book of Job
Lysander trudges the quiet streets alone, too early for another man to meet. The heat already promises to own the day. Lysander prays his slow, old way through town. Behind these doors, even the tweakers sleep, kept, if they can be kept, as are we all, by mothers who remember us as small. As searching mouths, as hunger. As despair. Like babies, they still root against the day. One might say they hope, more even than a praying man can hope. Lysander mumbles peace toward their doors. His right hip is starting in to throb. Every day he does this, walks and prays, leaves his quiet house to quietude. He’s begun to think it rude, if indeed a house can be. Wasn’t it happy with noise not long ago? Lysander thinks, what might you call a widower by himself? A loneliness? I’m not alone, Lysander thinks. Even a praying man can hope for ears. For years, he’s had the houses and their eyes. I’m not alone. Despite himself, he cries.
Naomi Reads The Lottery
I moved here because Ruth was of this place. This side-eye place, this subtle frown of a town. She doesn’t see the truth beneath the smiles. Lips pressed into smile facsimiles. I don’t think we’ve met, women said again and again, like that was a shortcoming. Ruth remembers every road, every face. People still wonder to each other what we are. Head shake of a place, finger wag of a town. Ruth would say God brought us here. At first, I couldn’t sleep in the quiet nights. It’s not the silence, but what lies underneath the silence, you know? The things unsaid. Things said only when we aren’t there. I began to memorize the big roads first, the highways that led away from town. It wasn’t even that I felt disliked, you know? More, I could see the gaze beneath the gaze. We were one kiss, one public honey away. From what, I couldn’t quite tell, but Ruth never saw what I could see. Ruth couldn’t see the stones in neighbors’ hands.
Rachel Custer is the author of Flatback Sally Country (Terrapin Books) and The Temple She Became (Five Oaks Press, 2017). She is Editor-At-Large for OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters and was a 2019 NEA fellow. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in many journals, including Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, OSU: The Journal, B O D Y, One Art, and The American Journal of Poetry, among others. She currently resides online at rachelcuster.wordpress.com.
Carl Wycoff CC
We make homes of temporary places—we are
weeds rising from cracks in the street and lichen
on a rock before it gets scrubbed off. Some things
grow with purpose but we do it just because we can,
just to say we did. We will look back and miss the
wandering way of our bodies—or maybe we won’t and
that will be fine. Walking home in the dim
and newborn morning, unreasonably comfortable
because the snow in the street lights it up like day,
we are faintly aware of this transitory phase but
mostly feel it’ll last forever—until one by one we start
packing and planning and pretending we’re ready.
We hold hands on the bus because that’s the time
for it—sappy, drunk, paranoid. In the spring we recoup
on the roof because we don’t have a patio but make do
with what we’ve got. It tints our feet black and we’re
always tracking in dirt, reckless. But we will keep
cleaning it up again and again until it becomes
someone else’s job, others like us who will see
the dents we left in the walls, the hardened wax
on the floor, the sparse marks that prove we existed.
Sarah Horner is a writer whose work explores themes such as femininity and mental illness. She lives in Minneapolis, studies literature, and frequently ponders a future in the arts. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Defunkt Magazine, Across the Margin, The Bitchin' Kitsch, and Mantis.
Along the river soon comes the sound,
the sinew, the meat, the carrion, rupture.
No heart that beats, no bench erected,
no peace on earth we cannot rupture.
High water rises above toe and crag, a man
with one branch swings from the rupture.
The pack assembles, all glossy and hip,
another spin round the epic rupture.
Try alum, try yellow dock, try nettle, and
yarrow, no petal will stay the pending rupture.
No staving the swell, no middle lane.
Some sways sanction each new rupture.
The hemorrhage, the glut, the certain slug,
lacerated, punctured, broken, ruptured.
Breach of my love, breach of my heart,
Who has not felt the brunt of rupture?
The guard, the grip, the spring, the lever,
just say it straight—each shot seeks rupture.
They Don’t Come Back
I heard a siren and wondered whose next?
The lunch lady killed crossing the street.
This somnambulant town filled with peril.
One friend moved away and promptly died.
I feel the urge to rhyme to stave off sadness,
They don’t come back. They don’t come back.
My father in his gray suit and my other love
who drank himself to death. When people leave
They don’t come back. They don’t come back.
I’m doing it again; I wish this was a jingle.
Something to crochet and hang upon the wall.
A pithy epithet, a couplet, words to sooth,
herbal tea. At home on the couch, day bleeds in
to night, it’s time for prayer or not. Either way…
Kelly Fordon’s latest short story collection I Have the Answer (Wayne State University Press, 2020) was chosen as a Midwest Book Award Finalist and an Eric Hoffer Finalist. Her 2016 Michigan Notable Book, Garden for the Blind, (WSUP), was an INDIEFAB Finalist, a Midwest Book Award Finalist, Eric Hoffer Finalist, and an IPPY Awards Bronze Medalist. Her first full-length poetry collection, Goodbye Toothless House, (Kattywompus Press, 2019) was an Eyelands International Prize Finalist and an Eric Hoffer Finalist and was adapted into a play, written by Robin Martin, which was published in The Kenyon Review Online. She is the author of three award-winning poetry chapbooks and has received a Best of the Net Award and Pushcart Prize nominations in three different genres. She teaches at Springfed Arts and The InsideOut Literary Arts Project in Detroit, as well as online, where she also runs a monthly poetry and fiction blog. www.kellyfordon.com
There is an endless well
Tears never cease
To pour over
I tire of the laughter,
Plugging it up
You are mine
Thank you for your water,
Your kindness, never leaving me empty
Please be patient with me.
Andrea Wagner is a graduate student at Stanislaus State University. They're also Co-EIC of Penumbra, Stan's literary and art journal.
David Schiersner CC
The Feast of Us
Two sisters, paddling through a brothy riptide.
Climbing kitchen counters, outstretched fingers yearning
for cans of whole tomatoes or Campbell’s or Spaghettios eaten cold,
always ever so slightly out of reach.
Greedy consumption of Food Network with insatiable eyes.
You wondered once if what we shared was love,
or simply memories no one else could understand.
Two soldiers standing on a hill,
looking down upon the remnants of a scorched battlefield.
I want to bathe you in a bowl of soup
until that golden brown crust of pain softens into the mush we once were.
A man on the news said infants drown in bathtubs
so I showed you how to blow bubbles underwater.
Taught you to read with alphabet pasta letters,
scooped up in “Here come the airplane!” spoons
And gulped down into a warm belly
to grow hands that mix dough for challah and encircle steering wheels
as you leave and come back, leave and come back,
like the over-under of hair in twin braids parted down the middle
or dough longing for the brush of an egg.
Two girl-loaves, two stretched and braided and ovened,
heated like a promise.
Safe, sisters filled and filling with warm bread breath.
How simple it is to rest and become what you are
what you were kneaded to be.
Rachael Collins has never had her work published, other than the inclusion of an exceptionally over dramatic poem entitled “The Fox” in a grade school writing anthology. Nevertheless, observing the world around her and attempting to share it, as well as her own experiences, through words has remained a lifelong constant. She often writes about feeling anything but heroic while working as a nurse, longing for faith, her mental health journey, and memories involving shopping malls. She lives in Seattle with her partner and two “lucky” black cats, despite a lifelong fear of felines.
Carl Wycoff CC
I will tear open my wounds
and howl like the sea
and allow all my sorrows
to pour out from me.
I will peel back my skin
and expose ravaged bone.
I will own that I am
a shivering, pitiful Crone.
I will wander the roads
and suffer others to know
how I am weak and unsure
but desperate to grow.
I will plant myself firmly
as any scarred oak
and soak up aged wisdom
in the folds of my cloak.
I will bend and I’ll weather
in cruel wind and in rain
and I’ll plant healing herbs
in the mud of my pain.
Living in Glin, Co. Limerick, hailing originally from Co. Kerry. Kennelly spent many years working in Education and in the Arts. She is a published poet and writer.
Carl Wycoff CC
People report angels appearing, luminous
in Ukraine’s skies, as they wake
into the blessed, savage light.
The things mercy can be: wind winging
pink through our crooked plum trees,
uncovering a collapsed classroom,
a statue of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
and children holding rosaries, all untouched.
Strawberry plants sprouting near the spot
where we buried the cat, the wild hope
he could paw back up through the dirt.
When you said, on the edge of slumber,
“miss the bones,” instead of “miss the boat.”
You’re a ghost in a body. My joys in your dark
mist. One vast hour purpling to eternity.
As I keep searching for my sins, like stones
in the ocean, I remember the saint who said,
“Those are the stars I’ll walk on someday.” As if
I could go back. As it turns out, you can’t
get the ghost out of your system. The priest
in the church by the lakes tells me today
my wrongdoings are a drop of water
in a furnace.
A 2017 NJ Council on the Arts poetry fellow, Nicole Rollender is the author of the poetry collections, The Luster of Everything I'm Already Forgetting (Kelsay Books, 2023) and Louder Than Everything You Love (Five Oaks Press), and four poetry chapbooks. She has won poetry prizes from Palette Poetry, Gigantic Sequins, CALYX Journal and Ruminate Magazine. Her work appears in Alaska Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, Ninth Letter, Puerto del Sol, Salt Hill Journal and West Branch, among many other journals. She's managing editor at THRUSH Poetry Journal. Nicole holds an MFA from the Pennsylvania State University. Visit her online: www.nicolemrollender.com.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.