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  • Robert L. Giron

Issue 145

Updated: Jan 30, 2022

In this issue, we feature poetry by


Niels Hav

The anesthetists discuss astronomy

The anesthetists discuss astronomy

elevating in the lift

while patients arrive in taxis

accompanied or not by family.

The universe

consists of 100 billion galaxies.

If there are sentient civilizations

on just a millionth of those planets

we are far from alone.

Outside: cold rain,


A sick person

sitting in the waiting room

among frayed magazines

with his threadbare life

has only one single prayer.

The poem was previously published in La raíz invertida / la Revista Latinoamericana de Poesía July 2020. Copyright © 2020 by Niels Hav. Translation by P. K. Brask.


False pride


sooner or later.

As if reality

in its innermost

structure were governed

by reason.

Despots and empires

grind to an end;

brutal murderers

and violent political


last for only a time,

then the regime falls

apart from

the inside.

The dictator’s name


into the great forgetting—

faster than the representatives

of goodness

whom the heart remembers.

New incarnations

of human evil


brutality and arrogance

mate happily

with our own desire

for a jackpot.

But the new ones

and their servile


will also disappear


their time comes.

Trust that.


is the marrow

which every morning

lifts us all

out of sleep

each with our own

flopping catch

of joy and hope.

The poem was previously published in the Portuguese translation Alma danca em seu berco (Editora Penalux, Brazil 2018).

Copyright © 2018 by Niels Hav. Translation by P. K. Brask and Patrick Friesen.

About the Author

Niels Hav is a Danish poet and short story writer with awards from The Danish Arts Council. He is the author of seven collections of poetry and three books of short fiction. His books have been translated into many languages including English, Arabic, Turkish, Dutch, Farsi, Serbian, Kurdish, and Portuguese. His second English poetry collection, We Are Here, was published by Book Thug in Toronto; his poems and stories have been published in a large number of magazines and newspapers in different countries of the world, including The Literary Review, Ecotone, Acumen, Exile, The Los Angeles Review, Absinthe: New European Writing, Shearsman and PRISM International. He has travelled widely and participated in numerous international poetry events in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America. He has frequently been interviewed by the media.

Niels Hav was raised on a farm in western Denmark; today he resides in the most colourful and multi-ethnic part of the capital, Copenhagen. His most recent book, Moments of Happiness was published by Det Poetiske Bureaus Forlag in 2020.

Holly Karapetkova

Southern Gothic

Sometimes the moss in a tree

is just moss.

Sometimes it is a body

swinging from a rope.

How you tell the difference

is by getting close enough to see,

by waiting for the sun to rise

high enough to clear off

the shadows stuck

to your own feet.

The boy was just a boy,

not a big-eyed monster.

The river was cold and the wind

colder. This is how it works:

I hit you and you scream.

This is how it plays out:

I wring you like a dishcloth

and the truth gushes forth—

the only truth

that will make it out of here alive.

Previously published in Poet Lore (111.1-2, Spring Summer 2016). Copyright © 2016 by Holly Karapetkova.

Breakfast of Champions

I am awakened each morning

by a million pixels:

the light of my own face,

selfie smiling on my smartphone.

I breathe in the air of 14.5 planets,

breathe out 20 metric tons of carbon

before I even brush my teeth.

My gold medal is bigger than yours

and it’s got nothing to do with luck;

it&rsquos all pluck and hard work

and tax breaks targeted

to stimulate the economy,

this stamina I acquired

by pushing my checkbook

from one bank to the next

in search of lower interest rates.

They fall like stars into my hat

and thanks to my elite

education I’ve learned

to stuff them in my pockets,

thousands of points of light,

to touch them until they respond

with the image I want to see.

They shine every morning,

only for me.

Previously published in The Crab Orchard Review (233, 2019).

Copyright © 2019 by Holly Karapetkova. 

Social Studies

In 5th grade we learned

that slavery ended in 1865:

Thirteenth Amendment

(turn the page)

Indian Removal Act in 1830

Trail of Tears 1838-1839

meant for their own protection (sic)

(end of chapter)

This is what makes us social

these studies

a long list of presidents

(cotton plantation on this very playground)

wars whose dates we memorize

treaties and purchases

(just the facts)

the Mason Dixon Line

thickened on the map

reservations shaded blue as sky

(Cherokee genocide just north of here)

a fugitive pencil crossing


Copyright © 2021 by Holly Karapetkova.

Big Hair

We all wanted it, endured hours in the salon chair:

hair wrapped around hard plastic rollers,

chemicals dripping on our scalps.

Then each morning the curling iron,

clouds of chlorofluoro-carbons, hair spray

coating every surface of the bathroom.

We didn’t know (didn’t ask) that the black girls

were doing the same thing in the opposite direction,

relaxers and straightening irons to pull out

the curls they didn’t want, get something

approaching the texture of white hair.

In the yearbook we’re all smiling,

white girls with bangs puffed like carnations,

black girls with hair sculpted into orchids,

our pictures alphabetical, interspersed

so you’d think we were friends who could turn

to one another in homeroom one morning

and complain about the rain ruining 45 minutes

of hair preparation. But we didn’t.

We suffered at separate ends of the yard,

monkey bars and playground dust rising between,

a distance none of us could imagine crossing.

Previously published in North American Review (300.2, Spring 2015). Copyright © 2015 by Holly Karapetkova.

Neighborhood Games

They arrived on long yellow buses

from neighborhoods across town,

the long list repeated daily in homeroom:

Schwanna, Demont, Tayara, Valencia

names we never used. They sat

at their own lunch table, formed

their own game of tag at recess.

We were German-Polish-Norwegian-Italian-

Scottish-British-white, the unwritten rules

we’d already learned by heart.

At home we ran the neighborhood,

played capture the flag, tackle football,

snowball wars, ally ally in come free.

A wilderness grew behind our houses,

acres and acres untamed. We made

a secret hideout, dug a hole that could hold

several of us at a time. I remember

the view from inside, earth reaching

to my shoulders, a hole so deep

we had to climb down in it to keep digging.

Copyright © 2021 by Holly Karapetkova.

About the Author

Holly Karapetkova is the current Poet Laureate of Arlington County. Her poetry, prose, and translations have appeared recently in The Southern Review, Blackbird, Poetry Northwest, and many other places. She’s the author of two books of poetry, Towline and Words We Might One Day Say. She teaches at Marymount University.

Ron Singer

Teachable Moments

A father teaching his son to fish

shows him how to cast, then reel in.

“So far, we’ve caught seventeen fish,”

he jokes to someone who joins them,

pointing toward an empty bin.

Taking the bait, the newcomer looks in.

This is on the East River, in Manhattan.

The two rods rest upon a wooden rail.

When a second boy arrives, a rod-less friend,

the first one lends his to him,

tells the joke, and explains the drill.

Ignoring the bin, Boy-Two casts, reels in.

Fishing teaches patience (as does Latin).

It also teaches strategy. (Or is it tactics?)

So does basketball (teach strategy

and tactics). Aggression, as well,

it teaches (basketball). Life, in sum,

is full of lessons, some teachable,

some passed, pell-mell, from father to son.

Copyright © 2021 by Ron Singer.

The Old Lease on Life

No Condition Permanent

— A proverb seen on Nigerian buses, mammy wagons and trucks.


In Native America, no one owned land.

People exercised life tenure, or freehold.

Only the Great Spirit’s lease was perpetual.

The rest of us—humanity—rented.

This distinction may be existential.

For our apartment, e.g., which we own,

we pay monthly maintenance, i.e., rent.

The distinction extends to the dental:

Addressing a tooth-resorption problem,

“Normal for your age,” the dentist explains.

“Root canal is your Number-One option.”

In a sense, then, my teeth are a rental.

Picture renting your teeth, the when and the how!

“Sign on the line, sir! You can wear them now!”


The other morning, we replaced a toilet seat.

The old one looked new, but its hinges were bent.

Toilet seats seem less like objects you keep

than all the aforementioned, which you rent.

That we rent, not own, is fundamental.

One by one, our body cells are replaced.

In that sense, we gradually lose face,

not to mention fascia, glands and follicles.

Toilet seats, co-ops, teeth, body cells, land,

all things that consciousness can understand . . .

But since the brain, itself, is made up of cells,

our sense, in a sense, turns out to be a rental.

Life, come to think of it, may have a lease.

But to claim that you own it (your life)? Please!

Copyright © 2021 by Ron Singer.

About the Author

Ron Singer, author of Look to Mountains, Look to Sea (River Otter Press, 2013), a collection of Maine poems, a Pushcart nomination and was named Best Chapbook by The Aurorean, a Maine poetry magazine. Singer has also published hundreds of single poems in venues ranging from local newspapers to international journals. His three most recent books focus on aging. These are The Promised End and Gravy (Unsolicited Press, 2019 & 2020); and Weld Tales, Short, Long & Tall (Akorin Books, 2020). The Real Presence will be published in 2021 by Adelaide Books; it’s a historical novel centering around Nigeria’s Biafra War (1967-70).

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