Time does not always feel like a gift. The body ages ungracefully, the number of people we love dwindle in death or a death-in-living. We can't go back and fix things (oh, though we want for nothing more) the best we can do is to fix a few things in the here and now. Even so, we want more time. With the people who are now gone, with the parts of ourselves that once were so vibrant and seemingly unencumbered (a beautiful illusion) or with the parts of us that never even had a chance to form before disaster struck. If time is a gift, it is a difficult one.
There are things we come to know in no other way than through great difficulty. Perhaps it is not at all accidentally said that one must rise to meet a challenge. You can go through something and not meet it. A whole life can take this direction. A good part of mine once did. My early environment did not rise to meet any moment. We were on the descent. The toughest thing I have had to learn in this life is how to fashion my own emotional tools. We are the only ones coming. But that there are also more than a few fellow travelers on that road we come to know and lean on. Time brings them in and out of our lives in beautiful and devastating measure. Sometimes it's but a moment in time. And a moment is enough. We can hear a thing said a million times before, but sometimes it's the way someone says something to us that helps it to land. Timing. Tone. Timbre. When something lands it lands. It goes in the tool box.
All of the work here, for instance. It lands with me. And it is but a moment in time, and it cannot last, but the feeling does. The purpose, the why of us, why we are here, why we reach out, why we even try at all to describe all of the things that have happened to us in our lives. I tend to think it matters greatly that we meet each other in this way. Meet a moment, or a feeling, or a loss the size of everything.
How easily the trees let go of their cover in Autumn, we think. But why should it be any easier for them? We know as much about a tree's struggle as we do our own, and we know so very little. And just that little bit is enough. We can do a lot with that. Maybe it's a struggle for everything in life to let go. Letting go / letting in. Making room for more. How do we ever? But sometimes, don't you?
With the little time we do have it is good to not stand alone in it. Even if it's only for a moment, and the tide is high, and it seems all of our work is written on sand. Who knows what the sand remembers of us on the washout? Surely, we each made some small difference here. We have learned our way through on the roughest terrain there is; in here, our own hearts, our own bodies, our own minds. But it's the meeting of others; hearts, bodies, minds, that makes for a richer crossing.
Thank you all for being on this stretch of the journey with us. For sharing your stories of moment-meeting and heart-connecting, your how and your why and your rising. In this moment in time I feel extraordinarily grateful that our unique and differing paths have crossed, here, in this way. I hope we meet again. And even if we don't, this small and tender moment was enough.
Happy Fall, and safe travels, friends. May you all rise and meet your difficult thing in your own unique and beautiful way, and in your own time.
My therapist says Sleep Now,
but I struggle. Each morning,
I watch clouds give birth,
witness starlings fling themselves
into figure eights, squint to see
Andromeda’s red star.
My will says,
Set me afire
until I’m atomic,
which is not a demand,
but a telescopic question
for my daughter
to answer. Soon,
my spine will be a mountain
instead of a moon. Soon,
she will spit glaciers
on my chest. I will prepare her
for my many unravelings,
static fissures towards a single
black hole. She won’t understand
this poem, its bleak debris
ashing onto the page.
She’ll watch starlings migrate
to Mars and float into sunlight
she can’t name. She’ll whisper
See you later instead of
My knee cap split open
like a melon. We listened
to Johnny Cash
on the way to the hospital.
I cried. It wasn’t ugly,
but it wasn’t pretty
either. When we arrived,
a mass of people snaked
through the parking lot;
we didn’t even exit
the vehicle. Don’t worry,
you said, My father
is a doctor, as if
learned skills could be
passed down, as if
you weren’t still drunk
and over confident
and in love.
But we didn’t go
to your father’s.
We went home.
You carried me
over the threshold,
cut a lemon
for my tired mouth.
I was just a shell
of a person then,
trying to escape.
Hold tight, you said,
not meeting my gaze.
You poked my tender flesh
with the needle, fished around
for the other side.
after September 11th
Fifth grade, a foal
on stilts learning to walk,
and my father trapped
in an airport far away,
his voice a woolen whisper
through the corded phone,
and aren’t we all connected by
small grass fields,
to our mothers’ wombs.
I am still sucking on
my mother’s breast with
a small tongue, her milk
like a string of prayer flags
struggling to wave
as she witnessed me wriggle
in the NICU window, my head
a wire trap, the nurses stern
like bees. You Can Touch Her
Tomorrow, they’d say, then tomorrow
the same thing, always tomorrow,
her nipples puckering to the sky,
her breasts hardening
like tempered wings.
Her hands formed fog lines across
the ventilator’s window, lines
she’d remember ten years later
as her hands reached for the television screen
to cover the New York skyline,
the smoke pillowing
the sky, the grayness
a memory of me.
Crystal Ignatowski's poetry has been featured in Barren Magazine, Four Way Review, Parentheses Journal, and more. She lives and writes in Oregon.
It's forgetting season when the leaves fall, and in the yard
we bury everything that died over the summer
and offer the last of our love, name the ones we want to hold
and not forget, and I am unheld, and my tongue
restricts its own words of wanting. I missed
the first October breeze and nobody knew
where I was living and nobody thought to know. As
I write this I have spoken only to the squirrels outside
my window for several days and nights, asking them to tell me
the point of a life too fortressed to let the summer in,
to let the winter out. They scatter at the scratch
of my unpracticed voice. All the remembered dead
open their mouths and plead. Through this silent season
that was all I needed and all I could not do.
October is the month of forgetting and I am being forgotten.
Old friends leave me like a needle pulled from the skin,
which is to say I'm getting sicker. I wonder
which patch of earth will cover me next year,
which roots will finally embrace me, which fruit
will grow strong from everything my life could hold.
Bleak Autumn of the Fifth Year
It's winter again, or almost, and no
fire in the fireplace, and my father
wears his big coat as he leaves,
hat carried by the wind, scuffs
on the car ceiling from hauling
dead trees home from vacant lots,
lonelier than it was some days, quieter,
softer, darker, trees festering in a gaping sky,
frost vanishing like days, blushful flowers greying,
my sister's mittens hanging from the hook, the clouds
of yellow death on every tree, impressionist
street corners, a deep sigh, our closing hands,
the creeping ice that threatens cold,
and she is still dying in my memory,
and I am still living for another year
in this unlikely world, oh God, this world.
Originally from Chicago, IL, Lee Johns is an undergraduate student at Yale University. Their writing has been published in Body Without Organs and the Concord Review and is forthcoming at The Agapanthus Collective. Right now, you can probably find them at the library.
spring’s slow trickle of trampled snow unleashes
backlogged precipitation swells Mississippi well over her banks
I don’t fish but friends who do inform me bass don’t bite
when the water’s rising they hide in eddies from the gathering current
and I do read the obituaries of boys who jump in
and come out white downstream in Vernon County
boys survived by family who swear their deaths are intentional
and I do observe that sliver of moon left to hang
like a cut nail visceral as the silence between us
and I do feel the cloak of your embrace hands that belie
the goodbye in the soaked midnight world
and I do wish to almighty to go back warn myself
to evade your first touch but here we are scuffing blacktop
under maple buds just opened the divergence
as incidental and permanent as the river drownings
Rachel White is an emerging poet and artist. She holds a B.F.A in Graphic Design from Viterbo University, and a M.Ed. from the University of Wollongong. Originally from Wisconsin, she has worked in Connecticut and Australia as an art teacher for over a decade, and is a U.S. Army veteran. Rachel’s work has been published in Third Wednesday Magazine.
Andrew Seaman CC
Self-portrait with Elegy (III)
Whenever I am adrift
a faroff earthbound watery star
means home a house
in the fields of memory
where it’s always evening
an ending just beyond reach
and welcome that way
And I’m always that kid
kicking dirt clods
the clotted remains
of a growing season gone
down the tubes too much rain
too little time to breathe
between the wet hoof beats
clopping their way
down the roof
into my dreams
A mosquito swarm into a chord
a single car muffler sputtering
down into the dark
of the closing day
At the window
the bruise-colored waves of rain
wash in from the west
their own morse code
with cricket and thrush
and distant thunder
hollering like a father
from up the stairs
I wasn’t much more then
than the result of old growth
that grew close enough
to rub away the rough in each other
But the world turns
on the momentum of leaving
There’s a moment
when it feels like twilight
can go either way the way
maple leaves can seem
to keep waving goodbye
even after the wind stops blowing
I’m learning to lean in to the falling almost-
dark you call it a game of trust those arms
warm rivers merging tracks of light lean in close
tell me your lies I’ll believe them if you tell them
truly you’re teaching me turn in to the skid the ice
won’t form yet for another six months outside now
blows profuse hymns in hummingbird tongues
a honeyed weight as light descends too much almost
to breathe sometimes when the days grow long
twilight is a compromise of territories your rich outline
and mine dark in the window tracing vague shapes
doves in twilit flight barking dogs teach me how
to live with your hands out there luna’s glossy plume
halfway out of frame earth cutting into it a fine line
we walk the bleeding edge this game of dim shadows
shows us more fully than full light ever would
Marko Capoferri has lived and worked in eight US states, including Montana, where he currently resides. He is an MFA candidate at the University of Montana in Missoula. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Porter House Review, Prometheus Unbound, Camas, and FatherFather.
kami rao CC
Shape my body into a bowl and drink from the shallow collarbone
I leave for you. Wading in the wine sky, a half moon
rediscovers us—the doctrine of our bodies.
We lie here, offering the world nothing
The way your cheek presses medallions in my chest
aches. Your breath, flowers.
A mouth is a measure of faith
is a curl between skins is
the night that belongs only inches from our lips
Don’t wait until morning for renewal, when the bed is made
and light turns everything too certain.
Think of the gestures that make us endless.
Speak, if you can.
Tell me how prayer is too small for this.
Michael Beard (he/him) currently studies poetry at the Bowling Green State University MFA program and serves as the managing editor for Mid-American Review. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Jupiter Review, Bending Genres, Moss Puppy Magazine, The Mantle Poetry, and other places. He can be found on Twitter @themichaelbeard.
Doug Kerr CC
or, "You're always so quiet."
normally I'd not swirl I'd not whirl about what seems
at the seams a half acre there a crowd fest where quiet
should be hush-hush could be but the rush that spasm so swish
cataclysm of rain of sleet of hell more snow & hail hard blows
in the thick of it like a bomb's tick-tick of it at the cusp of storm
breaking last gust of two lovers aching holding together
silicone-seal-tight fear of leaving greater than cold blight that silence
that comes humid still but devours but devours but devours so why
wouldn't I why wouldn't I now tell me: why wouldn't I
throw all caution to that brawl of wind and scream & scream & scream?
Michelle Menting's recent poems and flash prose narratives appear or are forthcoming in Cincinnati Review, Passages North, Eco-Theo Review, The Dodge, About Place, and others. She lives in a small house along a little river in a patch of woods in Maine.
Vlastimil Koutecký CC
Poems Written in First Ten Days of Sobriety
Melancholic as bees filling a Crown Vic
or a headlamp in ashes inside the cave while
feeling for air, I become the breezeway
of past attempts to stop harvesting liquid,
a Penelope of sorts, agog and cramped,
as I adjust to a new regimen of saltines
and despairing downticks on the scale
of absent suitors in myth. What once was
written in sinew now weights heavy on
blunt variations. My liver unfizzes,
my kidneys relax, blood pressure moves
the direction of fish. What I once was—
another creature. What I will be—an upsurge.
Unsure, I become options optional, imparting.
5am, they injected the vaccine at a Walmart
on the edge of a North Florida wilderness of
gothic plastic assemblages while the wine
glasses arrived broken in their Amazon box
too big like a child who wears pants that fall
from his waist revealing how flimsy the body.
In ethanol and ferment, the pomegranates
of our spiked hellscape sit quietly in their breeding
turning my throat glassy: I’ve got hummingbird lungs.
Green bottles thrown to goddesses and kings’
pudgy fingers clasp flukes and goblets, formulating
decrees: You will never drink again. All things stew given
enough time: cherry, elderberry, currant, me, you,
brooding, lust. Lifting my arm above nothing was torture.
Half-baked lies permeate my existence: I can
quit anytime, I won’t die on my own watch, silly
epiphanies mocking themselves ad infinitum. Sisyphus
hurled his gramophone across existence calling it
a rock, then the rock was abstracted to a fate rolling
towards hegemonic distractions like Google and socials.
Cosmology is the next best thing. Curious how time
dwarfs even the most disastrous of human cacophonies
like Greta Thunberg offering snark to the Twittersphere
of trolls, domestic terrorists, and recipes for scones.
After work, I twist like a rag in a bucket of rumination.
If I pass the supermarket, will the debit card cleave
from my bleached justifications? Will I graze the wine
aisle with my scarred knuckles in animal magnetism?
Will I drive my car into the ditch’s creamy twilight
or resist my own twitching impulses like carbonite?
Amphetamines make me orgasm super awesome.
Like a video game to avoid the past.
I wanted to burn down the treatment facility.
As a way to unhinge the label from spirit.
I couldn’t sleep because I would relive an incident
involving my then two-year-old son.
Like a script memorized to avoid the past.
Because the world is so dull and tedious.
The brain feels sandblasted and raw as dunes.
It’s perfectly rational if you heavily discount
the value of the future.
As a way peel off the label from spirit.
Fun fact: pleasure is a reason to do things : ) : ) : )
Bare as brain, sad as dunes.
To feel bummed like this,
an avalanche of coordinates
on the body’s temple translates
into kissing sharks and parasites,
for the long haul it’s been a week
with no substances except a man telling
me that I should inhale and exhale agog.
I watch the crescent moon, say “I do”
to the world but don’t mean it
because inside I’m dying of fear
and wine is sloshing like rivers of
fuming days, days diluted, moon
reappearing after thirty nights
and calling itself eyes.
Water is cold and wet,
wine—hot and dry like
a lake on fire turns purple
as pines smoke.
the story of a man
who slept on his back
in a tent as serpent
entered his open
mouth and he bit down.
Finished with saturation.
Done with the dish of spreading
colors and clicking. I could Google
myself twelve times daily only
to find I have not left the house,
that I’m really tending
to my scraped knee.
Fell again. Nothing changed.
I don’t want to know the things
I think I want to know, don’t want
to drink things, I think I want to drink.
Besieged by blight and loneliness
deep in the body’s cavities. Behind
the eyeballs weeds grow
and parting the weeds, the murky
pond gravitates to static when it should
be stiller than hands that hold
deadened plants at noon.
The spheres demanded
I didn’t cry. On the pavement,
I thought about it while
pain shot through
my arms and ankles.
The spheres are cruel.
The man across the street
who saw me fall helped
his wife into a purple car.
Hey, that’s my car!
I got up, blood gushing
down my shin. Kept
running, lush plants
exhaled, hand numb
by now—only 8am.
What else did Tuesday
have in store?
Sandra Simonds is the award-winning author of eight books of poetry: Triptychs (Wave Books, November 2022), Atopia (Wesleyan University Press, 2019), Orlando, (Wave Books, 2018), Further Problems with Pleasure, winner of the 2015 Akron Poetry Prize from the University of Akron Press, Steal It Back (Saturnalia Books, 2015), The Sonnets (Bloof Books, 2014), Mother Was a Tragic Girl (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2012), and Warsaw Bikini (Bloof Books, 2009). Her poems and criticism have been published in the New Yorker, the New York Times, the Best American Poetry, Poetry, the American Poetry Review, the Chicago Review, Granta, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Fence, Court Green, and Lana Turner. She is the recipient of the Readers’ Choice Award for her sonnet “Red Wand,” which was published on Poets.org, the Academy of American Poets website. She went to UCLA for her BA, University of Montana for her MFA and Florida State for her PhD. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida and is an Associate professor of English and Humanities at Thomas University in Thomasville, Georgia.
Becoming a better girl
The rain coughs phlegm down the
gutters, skittering your skin with layers
Of petroleum. How the distance
Between the clouds and the future
Is impossibly large. How you tried to
See your next lover, but only saw
Caught and hung upon hook hands.
You up whole, to pronounce the living
dead. Because you want to thrash yourself alive:
To thrash yourself out of your
And it burrows into your wrist, and you’re
Still laughing, hand flattened out into
An envelope with a name on it. Dawn is
crackling on the radio, your feet are stuttering
A little song; nothing else to do, love.
And you wanted it badly, sainting
your body until you were sour. This
was so you could let your skin roam,
deify, another birth, zipping it all
Back up, baby: we know that’s what you
Body as it falls off a highway. I sirened myself
Instead, the country’s very best whore. You’ve
Got to try me. You’ve got to see what I’m
Sharon Zhang is an Asian-Australian, Melbourne-based poet and author. Her work has been recognised by Paper Crane Journal, Antithesis Magazine, and elsewhere. She is a mentee at Ellipsis Writing and an editor at Polyphony Lit. Outside of writing, she enjoys collecting CDs, scrolling endlessly on her phone, and thinking about Deleuze a touch more than that which is necessary. She is the poet laureate of pretentiousness and using the word “body” when any other noun would work instead. Skin. Limbs. Humanness. Tablecloth.
kerry o'connor CC
Genetically Isolated Since the Ice Age
I starved myself down the wrong way
not with a wailing stomach and day-long naps
but with the kind of hunger you reserve for pure hatred
I was an animal
gutting turkeys and chewing through the cow’s gristle
pushing through bags of raw vegetables and passing
on all the offers of sweet whiskey, the good bread puddings
and perfect gin martinis with perfect slices of ice
that had kept me warm and fat
bundled in thick layers of subcutaneous blubber
for all those lonely years
I hadn’t sprung up like a flower
and I didn’t wither like one either
Not me, for me
it was the failing predator’s way
a flailing Kodiak bear dragging a rusted
trap in my wake so you can all see where I’ve been
until the starvation caught me
tackled me to the earth and I breathed in the musk
of where we’re all going
the embrace turning more tender
as the weight sloughed off until all that’s left
is a solid block of sharp bones wrapped tight
in a fancy pantsuit of new muscle so young
and so shiny
and so utterly unlike who I am
or who I thought I was
I don’t know how to wear it right
and it’s just so painfully
I’m playing dress-up in a closet I don’t belong
Jessica Mehta is a multi-award-winning poet and author of the just-released "Selected Poems: 2000 - 2020," the winner of the Birdy Prize from Meadowlark Books. As a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, space, place, and ancestry in post-colonial "America" informs much of Mehta's work. You can learn more at www.thischerokeerose.com.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.