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Issue 161

This issue features


Untitled

© by Brett Critchley.




Fran Abrams


This Poem Takes You to the Ocean


This poem smells like the ocean.

Take a deep breath and welcome

salty air. Bring along your imagination

and smell cotton candy

for sale on the boardwalk.


This poem sounds like the ocean.

Listen and you will hear waves meeting sand

over and over, rippling shushes as water

runs back into sea. Hear the cries

of a seagull overhead watching

for a forgotten French fry.


This poem tastes like the ocean.

No, not the taste of swallowing saltwater

which you didn’t mean to do. This poem

tastes of air heavy with humidity,

of beach sand that gets in your mouth

no matter how careful you are,

of sunscreen when you kiss your little one

moments after smearing her with lotion.


This poem takes you to the ocean

even on days when there is no sunshine

and the ocean is miles away. Go to the ocean.

Breathe. Listen. Find peace.


Copyright © 2022 by Fran Abrams.


Silver soup spoon

no longer shiny,

left in the kitchen drawer

for many years,

the tool I chose when playing archeologist.


I dug for hours in the dirt

searching for evidence of early life,

looking for ancient bones near roots

of elm trees planted at the curb

in our suburban subdivision built in 1954.

Indoors, I opened my encyclopedia,

read about what I might find.

Perhaps not bones, but signs of early settlers,

a button, a shard of clay.

All I found were stones

that I washed with a garden hose,

brought inside for my mother to admire.

My silver spoon, a search engine,

long before that phrase was invented.


Copyright © 2022 by Fran Abrams.



Yellow Daffodils


push through loam,

courageous scouts


trying to discover if spring

is sincere or pretending.


Spring breezes ripple daffodils

beckoning children outdoors.


Copyright © 2022 by Fran Abrams.



Reflection


I look in the mirror

and see my father.


The shape of my brow and lips,

the quizzical eyes.


I am my father's daughter.

Analytical, the one who plans


for contingencies,

who leads others

from point A to point D

while many are struggling


to find their way to B.

I look in the mirror.


Male pattern baldness is so

difficult to style on a woman.


And that constant cough.

Will I end at 91 as he did

with no breath remaining?

I look in the mirror,


rejoice I am still here

reflecting on all I have inherited.

Copyright © 2022 by Fran Abrams.


About the Author

Fran Abrams has had her poems published online and in print in Cathexis-Northwest Press, The American Journal of Poetry, MacQueen’s Quinterly Literary Magazine, The Raven’s Perch, Gargoyle 74 and others. Her poems appear in eight anthologies, including the 2021 collection titled This is What America Looks Like from Washington Writers Publishing House (WWPH). In December 2021, she won the WWPH Winter Poetry Prize for her poem titled “Waiting for Snow.” Please visit franabramspoetry.com.



Laurel Blossom


Yellow Tulip Tree



hammered gold seeds like quills but what if

leaf, paper spinning, scripting suddenly

thin, translucent impossible the woman thinks

peeling ancient so soon

illuminated text alchemy the killer frost

words beaten caught tonight

clear in the threaded what if

to the quick mesh of a poem (her startled breath)

soaked leaf falling seeing

with the color through sunlight herself, as if

Dante saw sunlight not here

when he saw falling through not there

Beatrice falling leaf the yellow tree



Copyright © 2022 by Laurel Blossom.




Small Prayer Against the End of the World

Small bird perched on telephone wire

above garage across the street. Back-lit

and silent. I don’t know birds, but I know I’ll miss

them when they’re gone. If you can

do something from where you are, who I learned

only yesterday died in March, yourself,

whom I loved, please do.


Copyright © 2022 by Laurel Blossom.


About the Author

Laurel Blossom is the author of two book-length narrative prose poems, Degrees of Latitude and Longevity, both from Four Way Books. She has published four books of lyric poetry. Her chapbook, Un-, was recently published by Finishing Line Press. Laurel was the inaugural Poet Laureate of Edgefield, SC before moving to Los Angeles in 2017. Visit her website at www.laurelblossom.com.


John Davis


Navajo Code Talkers, Iwo Jima


The code talkers

spoke in a language

learned centuries before

from lichen on spider rocks

In the language they learned

how day-to-night came to be

how light, air, water and earth

contain everything equally


No one knew what they were saying

but they knew the language

they were slapped for by nuns

when they spoke it in grammar school

These syllables were tangles of vines

and tall grass to the Japanese code breakers

The Navajos spoke as though

they were sowing seeds

of how to live

with Earth and Sky


Copyright © 2022 by John Davis.



Napoleon’s Penis


Yes it was severed

by his doctor during the autopsy.

Not an arm or a leg or the head.

And such a little penis that shrunk

to a piece of leather or

a shriveled little eel.


Impossible not to imagine Napoleon

shaking his tiny garden hose

with his left hand before battle

while his right hand warmed his war wound.

Years later, on display in Manhattan,

the penis shone under spotlights.

A maltreated strip of buckskin

said TIME magazine.


For a time the penis sat in a jar

under the bed of a urologist.

Imagine manipulating your own erection

while a strip of dried beef jerky

gathered dust beneath you.


Now bid at $100,000, the penis

is ready to bed corpses around the world,

ready to piss on Waterloo once more,

piss on the Russian winter.

In the end, it’s all just

shake and dance.


Copyright © 2022 by John Davis.


About the Author

John Davis is a polio survivor and the author of Gigs and The Reservist. His work has appeared recently in DMQ Review, Iron Horse Literary Review and Terrain.org. He lives on an island in the Salish Sea.



Sally Lipton Derringer



That Year


If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon

President Obama, March 2012


That year, there were too many

shootings, too many black boys stopped for no reason,

and all I wanted when I got home from work was to put

on the news, before food, before checking the answering

machine, and always after only a few minutes the phone

would be ringing, Hayden telling me in a dreamy voice

Mom, the universe is love, or on other nights begging me

to stop saying his life was ever going to get better, and

me trying to figure out how to rate the level of danger,

armed only with whatever God-given instincts a person

could have when they had long ago stopped believing

yet still needed to believe. With the TV muted and the

screen flashing I would think of Buffalo, of my time

with Lewis, of existing in a kind of euphoria in which

the universe did feel like love, until my father's hatred

replaced it with its perfect aim and shot us down. If I

had had a son that year he would have looked like you.

He would have looked like you.


First published in december Vol. 28.1, Spring/Summer 2017 and in Writing for Life, Spring 2020 (Nervous Ghost Press).

Copyright © 2017 by Sally Lipton Derringer.



Goldilocks Looks Back


I had no right to enter

your perfect home. Three mugs hanging

from their hooks, three pairs of shoes

lined up. I thought I sensed

an invitation, the carpentry of

your lives lacking in its integrity. I hadn’t counted on

inhabitants this real, lives broken by

the weight of my interruption. I sat down

like someone deserving her rightful place.

I helped myself to what

was yours, I only wanted to rest

in your comfortable bed.



First published in The Quarterly #25 (Vintage/Random House).

Copyright © 2017 by Sally Lipton Derringer.




Adam Forcing Eve

after the 1946 painting Adam Forcing Eve to Eat an Apple

by Francoise Gilot, the only woman said to have left Picasso



In the painting she appears unbound, nothing stopping her.

Yet it will take years for her to leave.


Copyright © 2022 by Sally Lipton Derringer.



About the Author

Sally Lipton Derringer was a book manuscript finalist for the Tampa Review Prize, as well as for Fordham University’s Poets Out Loud Prize, the New Issues Poetry Prize, and the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize, and a semifinalist for the Brittingham/Felix Pollak Prizes, Elixir Press Poetry Award and Cider Press Review Book Award. She was a finalist for the Rita Dove Poetry Prize, Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize, Arts & Letters Prize, Kay Murphy Prize, Phyllis Smart Young Prize, Sonora Review Fiction Contest, New Millennium Fiction Award, and Tampa Review Danahy Fiction Prize, a runner-up for the Solstice Fiction Prize, William Dickey Memorial Broadside Contest and Grolier Poetry Prize, and a semifinalist for the James Wright Poetry Award and Paumanok Poetry Award. She also received honorable mention in Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize, New Millennium Writings' Poetry Award, and the poetry competition of the National Writers Union. Her work has appeared in Poet Lore, The Los Angeles Review, Solstice, Sentence, Bellevue Literary Review, The Prose-Poem Project, Memoir, SLAB, The Quarterly, The New York Quarterly, Tampa Review, The Journal of the American Medical Association, Court Green, december, Far Out: Poems of the '60s, Writing for Life, and other journals and anthologies. She has an M.A. in Creative Writing from Antioch University, has taught in the English Department at SUNY Rockland, and currently teaches at Rockland Center for the Arts in W. Nyack, N.Y.



Linda Dove


Dead of Winter


Midmorning, a whiff of rotting vegetation.

Bits and pieces in a bowl beside my kitchen sink.


Outside, I squelch across the sodden winter

to my freshest compost heap.


Raindrops soothe me like the Chopin prelude

in D-flat major, soft with repeating promise.


In the burial ground, I lay to rest broken cabbage stalks,

bruised banana skins, leafy curls yellowing on carrot tops.


In the pile, clover roots and coreopsis hibernate.

Two worms unroll from clandestine embrace.


At that moment, as if in the flow of my own blood,

microscopic microbes become visible to my outer eye.

Matter moves with the runnels of my spine

and I am one with the rich, black, pulsating soil.


Then, in this dead of winter, the prelude soothes me

once again and with promise of a lively spring allegro.


Copyright © 2022 by Linda Dove.



Light in Dark


Cretaceans of the seas, the dolphins,

whales and porpoises, sleep well at night

under ocean cover, rising now and then, awake,

to breath in air.


By day, we eight billion humans

work, play, eat, dawdle, do our thing.

But when darkness drowns diurnal doings,

we sleep, dream, submerge our daytime selves.


When the days frustrate me, my night self

dives into the tide and swims with creatures so aggressive

I wake. The terrors dissolve once I break surface

with the regular realities of day.


But when light contains my dark and dark my light,

the dreams drift me onto floating planktons

among the corals. They cradle me until I wake

refreshed in balance


Copyright © 2022 by Linda Dove.



About the Author

Linda Dove is a dual national of the UK and USA and worked out of Washington DC with the World Bank from the late-1980s. Before the poetry bug struck her, she worked as an economist and sociologist in developing countries worldwide. Ten years ago, She founded First Monday Poets in her new Shenandoah Valley home in Virginia. She recently received a cross-genre MFA (specializing in poetry) at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Her earliest poetry, 2007 to 2018, appeared in a full-length volume, Borrowed Glint of Jade. She has also published poems in print and online in the Virginia Literary Review, EchoWorld, several Bridgewater International Festival anthologies, Listen: Spiritual Direction International, MonthstoYears, Poetry X Hunger, DC Trending, and the anthology Written in Arlington. Since December 2021 several of her poems have been published or accepted for future publication by Oprelle, The Lowestoft Chronicle, Palette Poetry, and Artemis Journal. She was also a finalist in two of Oprelle’s recent contests, “Matter” and “Coming Home.”



Jonathan Greenhause


On the Road Trip



America, where are you? I’ve been searching

at shopping malls,

dodging prosecutors


who eye adolescent girls as they sing

the Lord’s praises.

I’ve resorted to verse


to unearth the all-inclusive voice of

Whitman, but it’s mute.

Perhaps the highways


might park me near the ghost of Nabokov,

enlighten our troubling

Reality phase


of governance. I could check cornfields, sleep

in alleys, hop

on freight trains, mainline


opioids, but corporate interests would keep

your majesty hidden.

As you’re wined & dined


by 1%-ers, we’ll find America

in our uniqueness, in

what we’ve become.


Copyright © 2022 by Jonathan Greenhause.



Not for Sale


The minimum-wage worker drags the cart

full of children, all of them

so cute, put together

so perfectly. Along the sidewalk’s cracks,

the wheels twist & pop, the ride

choppy. Occasionally,

couples stop him, ask how much

for the little girl with pigtails, for the boy

with the black eye. The worker

doesn’t speak much English, struggles

to tell passersby these kids aren’t for sale

until tomorrow, & only

at the store itself, not illegally

like this, smack in the middle of the street.


First published in Times Literary Supplement.

Copyright © 2022 by Jonathan Greenhause.



About the Author

Jonathan Greenhause was the winner of the Telluride Institute’s 2020 Fischer Poetry Prize, and his poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Permafrost, Poetry East, RHINO, Roanoke Review, and Tampa Review.




Dan Grossman


Yahweh at Goodwill


I was closing the store with a new cashier

a self-described Messianic,

a Jew who believes in Jesus.

I told him I wanted to use recycled bags

for garbage at the registers.

“It’s the least we can do

when the planet’s drowning in trash

and the coasts are about to flood

due to global warming.”


He gave me a strange look

and said, “Someone told me you were Jewish.”


“Not in a practicing sense,” I said.

“Life is difficult enough as it is.”


He said, “In Genesis, Yahweh promises

he’ll never flood the earth again

So don’t worry too much about global warming.”


“Well I guess we’ll find out whether that’s true or not,”

I said, trying to be diplomatic. “Probably within our lifetimes.”

But there was no point in saying anything else

because with Messianics

It’s Yahweh or the highway.


Copyright © 2022 by Dan Grossman.




I Love You


as much as Saddam Hussein loves power

as much as Winnie the Pooh loves honey.

Of course Saddam can’t murder

his entire population. He has to pick


and choose. Pooh likewise can’t get his honey

without the aid of a helium balloon.

And I can’t be holding you in my arms

every second of every day. The logic


of mustard gas and honey requires

that we work in separate cities.

To remind me of the gulf between us

I bought an Iraqi dinar bill with a Saddam watermark.


I pasted it on my lampshade. There it remained

until the day you replaced it with a picture

of Pooh. Then Saddam dropped a nerve gas bomb

in the bottom drawer of my heart.


Pooh plucked the bomb out of my chest

and dipped it in a pail of honey. Saddam

is no Saladin to liberate Christopher Robin

from the tyranny of Pooh. Only the bees hope


for a quick conquest. My love, you take me higher

than an Iraqi bomber rising over Kurdistan.

The scent of you is sweeter than all the honey

in Pooh’s tummy. Your honey is far sweeter.


First published in chapbook Kilohertz Country (Geekspeak Unique Press, 1999).

Copyright © 1999 by Dan Grossman.



About the Author

Dan Grossman is an adjunct professor of English at Marian University. He has worked as a managing editor and arts editor at NUVO, a team lead at Goodwill, and as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger, West Africa. He received master's degrees in English and nonprofit management from Indiana University - Purdue University, Indianapolis. He has published poetry in So It Goes (a Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library), NUVO, Third Wednesday, InPosse, pLopLop and The Indianapolis Anthology among other publications. He is also editor of the blog Indy Correspondent.



William Heath


Puerto de Santa Maria


Family restaurant with green doors,

fat father yelling at fatter sons

to clear more tables for restive locals

plus a few foreigners like me.

“Wait a minute,” one son tells a group

in three languages. ”Qué desastre!”

eyeing piles of dishes higher

than his head. In the kitchen

two even fatter women sweat

over steaming pots the size

of cauldrons. A rooster struts

across the sawdust floor,

cackles an irate commentary.

Father and sons keep shouting,

a beggar’s opera awash in arias.

As the need is sorest food arrives:

tall glass of gazpacho, fried sardines

fresh from the Mediterranean,

sliced kidneys in a sherry sauce,

lamb shanks in a wicked stew,

wine named for a bull’s blood,

pastry for the arm of a gypsy.

A meal worth the wait, a real find,

at a fraction of a fine restaurant

in Seville. For the best eats

look to the girth of the cook—

I learned that in Andalucía.


Copyright © 2022 by William Heath.



The Death of Marco Polo


At his deathbed a troubled priest

kneels to administer last rites.

Before he does so he admonishes

Marco Polo to confess his sins,

implores him to tell the truth

about his celebrated travels.

Everyone knows, the priest says,

he has exaggerated the facts,

telling extravagant falsehoods

and fabulous tales about those

golden cities of the Far East.

Surely he must set the record

straight here before the eyes

of men, in the presence of God.

Marco motions for the holy father

to lean closer, and, mustering what

strength is left, he whispers

loudly enough for all to hear:

“I have not told the half of it!”


Copyright © 2022 by William Heath.



About the Author

William Heath has published two books of poetry, The Walking Man and Steel Valley Elegy; two chapbooks, Night Moves in Ohio and Leaving Seville; three novels: The Children Bob Moses Led (winner of the Hackney Award), Devil Dancer, and Blacksnake’s Path; a work of history, William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest (winner of two Spur Awards); and a collection of interviews, Conversations with Robert Stone. www.williamheathbooks.com.



Shannon Kernaghan



Death of a Dream



biggest challenge to accept our government doesn’t care about oil and gas workers who lost their jobs and people with jobs ignore us and money never enough to cover our expenses and getting out of bed in the morning and carrying on is the biggest challenge take your pick


Copyright © 2022 by Shannon Kernaghan.


Oil Refinery Worker on Catwalk

Copyright © 2022 by Shannon Kernaghan.



Rear View Mirror


Together they read the words speeding under the over pass where someone has hand-painted a sign a rough critique from the concrete junction YOU ARE NOW LEAVING ALBERTA HOPE YOU ENJOYED YOUR JOB exactly, he mutters, got that right, she chimes in, both tsk-tsking with lip clicks in perfect harmony a trait they started together when sweeping layoffs empty office towers falling house prices gutted by glut forcing their unplanned exodus anywhere but west together.


Copyright © 2022 by Shannon Kernaghan.



In Search of Aliens


What a cool menu collection, so many meals with Uncle Sawyer! I nod, memories suspended ready to unravel. Holy crap! Did you really go to the Chicken Ranch? She studies the offerings, her bemused mouth open to pages of sex, pleasure for purchase disguised as Appetizers (bubble bath, massage) and Entrées (vibrator party, half & half).

I wink and shrug, letting her invent eyebrows rising like dough as she reads. We picked up the ‘menu’ while touring Pahrump, Nevada, to find the laundromat owned by former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss after Sawyer’s win on a scratch ticket, old luck taking us places that our measly savings couldn’t.

Our niece is visiting, unaware that my dwindling limbs are from Cancer Act II not a fictional case of irritable bowel. I keep eye contact to a minimum as we cherry-pick from my bookcase.

And this one, hilarious! She holds my Cover-Up Café menu with Crashed Flying Saucers (scrambled eggs) and Flat Weather Balloons (buttermilk pancakes). We were in search of aliens in Roswell, New Mexico. Onward to Area 51, Sawyer said, and to the cult-classic Little A’Le’Inn in Rachel, Nevada. I hugged his shoulders as he Googled carefree unaware his light heart would soon be under attack, not by aliens on the ET Highway but aortic dissection. I don’t tell anyone, I secret my sickness like a box of Godiva chocolates I should share, but feel entitled to keep for me alone.

The menu that really made us laugh? The 2 Jays Café, no, the green one. The only thing holding that menu together is trans fat and masking tape– Hah! our niece intersects my memory, someone printed Blow Jobs – $4.50!

She looks like her uncle when she smiles, her Russian blood lines, features that arrived through different journeys, persecutions. She looks like our daughter, also gone. Auntie, are you okay? she asks. Couldn’t be better, and I give her smooth cheek a kiss. Just savoring the memories.

Today I will give her my menus already tasted, treasured, am ready to share.


Copyright © 2022 by Shannon Kernaghan.



About the Author

For two decades Shannon Kernaghan and her partner were connected to the oil industry, one that left her feeling “slippery” when her environmental protection side clashed with the need to make a living. During part of that time, she lived in a travel trailer to follow the energy circus while battling hail, tornadoes, work shortages and work injuries. Inspired by her experiences, she writes poetry to capture the journey of a landscape pummeled and shaped, sunk and united by oil. Kernaghan’s work appears in books and journals—poetry, fiction and everything between—and she continues to tell her stories at www.ShannonKernaghan.com.




Emily A. Moose


Already

(1-12-12)


A good thing about senility

when the memory goes

bad ones do too

When others tell

of good times past

they’re enjoyed anew

as if for the first time

Unpleasant and downright

painful ones

simply slip

away


Loved ones are known

but maybe not by name

and surely not for

past sins

Each day, a new day

Familiar faces no longer

represent persons

only warmth…comfort


Last year, memories of

past pain were fresh as yesterday

Now, peace replaces anguish

A husband of 52 years

vaguely recalled with fondness

Even though the last of his years

spent suffering

now all misery has vanished

The lost 26 day old

infant son born in 1951

no longer cries in her sleep


Some are prepared for

the “letting go” early

No need to wait

upon arrival

The waste of this life

discarded while here

thought of no more…

Or else it wouldn’t be

Heaven

Copyright © 2022 by Emily A. Moose.



About the Author

Emily Almond Moose is thrilled as this is her first publication and has loved language all of her life. She is a college graduate with a degree in English and Primary Education. Her entire career has been spent in the area of human services. Emily worked as an employment consultant for thirty-one years with the NC Employment Security Commission and as a resident services specialist for five years with The City of Albemarle Department of Public Housing.


Evil Eye Talisman

by Keremgo.


Wexler


Talismans

Because everything can be a talisman

for good or evil

I am careful, handle gently

even the least likely omens

for fear of offending God knows who

or what, of imbibing or failing

to, a particular wine

at a given meal or writing

with a particular pen on a notable

occasion, or leaving

the toothbrush too near the edge

of the sink at any time,

and I stroke the bark of the tree

with a circular motion

just so, three times, before

getting in my car

for a critical meeting,

content with myself

that all will turn out well

and yet when miles away

and with no time to turn back

it strikes me that

I may not have applied enough

pressure to the trunk

of that tree and in my haste,

voided the good luck

that had been reserved for me.


Copyright © 2022 by Philip Wexler.



finding your way

it’s easy to be crushed

by words alone.

poof. your bones

are talc. you sink inside

collapsing skin, too thin

to hold you in. it’s easy

to be smashed to pulp

by looks that fail to see.

it doesn’t take too much

to turn you into dust.

you broadcast frailty

and takers take their turn.

it’s easy to get lost,

the slightest puff

sets off

a dandelion globe burst.

you’ve lived propped up

by soothing tones,

too hesitant

to take a step or stand,

without a hand

to lend support

or coax

you out of shirks.

you’re shaken to the core,

a powdery mess

that’s primed

to dissipate for good

at any further snub

or slight.

it’s hard to be contained

when you’re alone.


Copyright © 2022 by Philip Wexler.




About the Author

Philip Wexler lives in Bethesda, Maryland. He has had over 180 poems published in magazines. His collections, The Sad Parade (prose poems), and The Burning Moustache were published by Adelaide Books. Two more books are scheduled for 2022 - The Lesser Light by Finishing Line Press and I Would be the Purple by Kelsay Books. He also organizes Words out Loud, a monthly spoken word series, at Glen Echo Park in Maryland, lately presented remotely via Zoom.


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