“Into the Fire” by Kyle Laws

Into the Fire
Image by Penelope Breen

after being named for a woman jazz singer

Around a Philadelphia piano bar sweaty with beads
off glass, towards the end of the last set,
the singer and her voice became what Mother wanted
for a daughter, something in the name,
something her father said about their Irish ancestry.

I became clay to shape for the fire
when she gave me the name Karl in Gaelic,
but not even Mother could bring forth a goddess
in urn with all the wood of a forest.
By the time I budded breasts,

I didn’t want to be a girl who played with dolls,
but the woman astride a horse leading—
if not a nation—her family to what they could be,
more than what they were, more than drinks
around a set of black and white keys.

Three quarters past midnight, it would be easy
to focus on a man who walked away
in a piano bar tune. But it would be me,
a woman descended of Druids, the one stones
are circled for, the one for whom fires are burned.

 

 

Kyle Laws’ collections include This Town with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017); So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015); Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014); My Visions Are As Real As Your Movies, Joan of Arc Says to Rudolph Valentino (Dancing Girl Press, 2013); and George Sand’s Haiti (co-winner of Poetry West’s 2012 award). With six nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., and Canada. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.  www.kylelaws.com 

Read an interview with Kyle here.

 

“One of These Days! To the Moon, Alice!” by Roy Bentley

One of These Days
Image by Penelope Breen

A windsock for dreams, this Brooklyn bus driver.
A hope of getting one of those dreams made flesh
rides alongside him at a time they say Frank Sinatra
exudes light, that hope seeping through his capillaries
like the noises through a wall. To him, there is a power
to being a man and having Alice for his wife: the power
to haul your ass out of bed and press on after prolonged
sleeplessness. Through a humming New York City dawn.
And this is what Ralph does when he isn’t palling around
with a sewer-stinky Norton whose atriums and ventricles
lubdub an urban poo with a faint whiff of antiperspirants.
Surely, you’ve caught the reruns. Melted at least a little.
And if White Privilege is propping up Ralph Kramden,
which it is, The Honeymooners is a backdrop to falling
in love and fucking after the shades are drawn because
your Alice is frightened or Catholic. In 1955, you have
about what you want: stable employment to prison you
before and after the shudder of thrusting into her stops.
Maybe driving a bus is the metaphor for what happens
when any two hearts share quarters where one partner
has a name stitched to a uniform and the other doesn’t.
In 1955, men don’t use words like metaphor and a man,
any man, has a right to discipline an insubordinate spouse.
Ralph has seen the cowering women and called it bullying.
Then seen himself as an offender and remorseful penitent,
without referencing a nineteen-fifties idea of conscience,
though conscience—like Alice Kramden—had shouted
to be heard over the hubbub describing the cityscape.

 

 

Roy Bentley was born in Dayton, Ohio. He is the author of four books and several chapbooks. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Blackbird, Shenandoah, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, North American Review and elsewhere—recently, in the anthologies New Poetry from the Midwest and Every River on Earth. He has received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the NEA (in poetry), as well as fellowships from the arts councils of Ohio and Florida. These days, he makes his home in Pataskala, Ohio.

 

“White Lightning” by Jackie Craven

White Lightning
Image by Penelope Breen

The first sip flamed into another sip like a sun storm—
like an Olympic medal—like Pompeii—
like Pompeii before lava made love groan
beneath the weight of heat—made love eternal
in its heavy gray embrace—Sweet Jesus that sip
turned the scent of gasoline into the sound of gasps—
my lips had been an iron gate—my lips a Syrian desert
shriveled into a frown—my tongue a slug
curled in the hollow of my cheek—Hell
I was nothing but a hotel sign flapping on a rusty chain
a fleabag room—curtains pursed—but that wet light
flashed like resurrection hollering hallelujahs
in Japanese—That hot juice hit high notes
from the very first sip—shrill and trembling—singing
goddamn Götterdämmerung—squeezing music
out my pores till my skin stretched to cellophane—
that tight that transparent—Vesuvius
spitting jalapeño breath—hot and bright and dark too—
dark on top flames stoking underneath swirling me
through a wormhole—time swallowing its tail
blindness turned inside out—that sip—if some Higher Power
cracked the world open like an egg and you felt your soul
swim up from your ribs—felt your soul rear on hind legs—
a clash of crystal horses rearing and charging and taking off
on fourteen-foot wings—Teratornis wings—
God help me one sip and I was Nithhogr I was Smaug
melting mountains into cream—Oh yeah I lit the sky
like Nine-Eleven like Armageddon like a fucking
Jabberwock—no bones no skull only eyes—nothing but eyes
and a wide wet smile

 

 

Jackie Craven won the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Award for Our Lives Became Unmanageable, a chapbook of fanciful tales that explore themes of compulsion and recovery. Her poems appear in many journals, most recently in Nimrod, River Styx, Salamander, and Water~Stone Review. Visit her at www.JackieCraven.com.

Read an interview with Jackie here.

 

“Shoalwater” by Anders Carlson Wee

shoalwater
“Shoalwater” by Pat Zalisko, 6′ x 10′, oil on canvas

Waves grind the shoreline and darken into pools.
Crabs shuffle sideways, lost in the washed-up eelgrass.
Seagulls spit littleneck clams to the rocks
and don’t even eat the shattered bodies.
They fly as high as the clouds and wrap talons
in the wind. But this kind of love isn’t rare.
When I dream about my brother he disappears
if I look. He wears a bird-bone bracelet,
but I only know this by feel. Even his hair
is something I imagine. His nose occurs solely
as contours. I walk down the beach
and throw stones at the oncoming waves.
This is the best we can do. We leak every time
we are opened. Out just beyond the waves,
love says the same of itself. We can only witness
the implication, only feel for the shape.
Love is a pigeon nestled beside a dead pigeon
at night in the wet corner of a warehouse.
Blackness and the texture of feathers.
The thud of a body surrounded by hollow.
Love is a clamshell’s first touch against rock,
whatever tenderness can be found in that contact
before the crack. It’s been years since I was last
out on the water. The night sky tightens
like that familiar mouth. Clouds hide their bulk
on the backsides of islands. Each wave is real
the way his body is real. Made of something
not itself. Something bigger. Call it water.
Call it wind. Call it tendon-flexing of the moon.
Each wave lifts as he lifts, crashes as he crashes.
Love exists in the way seagulls hold still
in the wind. The way crabs carry pieces of clam
through the moonlight and vanish sideways into sand.

 

 

Anders Carlson-Wee is a 2015 NEA Fellow and the author of Dynamite, winner of the 2015 Frost Place Chapbook Prize. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, New England Review, AGNI, Poetry Daily, The Iowa Review, The Missouri Review, Best New Poets, The Best American Nonrequired Reading, and Narrative Magazine, which featured him on its “30 Below 30” list of young writers to watch. Winner of Ninth Letter’s Poetry Award, Blue Mesa Review’s Poetry Prize, and New Delta Review’s Editors’ Choice Prize, he was runner-up for the 2016 Discovery/Boston Review Poetry Prize. His work is currently being translated into Chinese. He lives in Minneapolis, where he’s a 2016 McKnight Foundation Creative Writing Fellow.

“Shoalwater” first appeared in The New England Review.

 

“Write to Save Someone” by Terri Muuss

write-to-save-someone_georgeave
“Georgia Street” by Pat Zalisko, 48×48, Acrylic mixed media on canvas.

Say something about the blade, the shine under
the opalescent moon.

How when you moved it
like a see-saw back and forth in your fingers
it caught fire, sent a pearl of light to dance
on the ceiling above you.

Say something about how it mesmerized you

for a second
& made you forget
your plan.

Say something about having a plan.

Say something about how you cried
& felt nothing.
your breath—

how it stilled in your throat,
how you breathed
like a master yogi—

Say something about irony.

Talk about the razor between your two
still fingers, held like a lover’s
eyelash to blow away for a wish.

Say how you took it at first
& moved it above
your wrist, sawing
the air for practice.

Say how you let it kiss your skin—
how you let it whisper a salted ocean breeze,
how you began the dance of trajectory
though a vein you didn’t know had so much
ocean inside.

Tell how you began—
a creator—to birth
the wet, sticky foal
that is your heart.

 

 

Terri Muuss is a licensed social worker, writer, actor, director and motivational speaker. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals including Paterson Literary Review, Apercus Quarterly, Atticus Review, Stirring, Long Island Quarterly, and Red River Review, and five anthologies, and she has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes in poetry. She is the author of Over Exposed (JB Stillwater, 2013) and the one-woman show, Anatomy of a Doll. Anatomy of a Doll was named “Best Theatre: Critics’ Pick of the Week” by the New York Daily News and has been performed throughout the US and Canada since 1998. As a licensed social worker, Muuss specializes in the use of the arts as a healing mechanism for trauma survivors She is married to writer Matt Pasca and her two ginger-haired boys, Rainer and Atticus were former Ellen Show “Presidential Experts.” www.terrimuuss.com

Read an interview with Terri here.

“Alive at Lampedusa” by Leticia Del Toro

alive-at-lampedusa1
“Alive at Lampedusa” by Pat Zalisko, 64×47, Acrylic on canvas.

On radio breaking news of drowning at Lampedusa
It is not a name I know, but sound bites of Italian coast
Roman mayor, deadly seas, bring to mind so many
other refugee ships … , I’m thinking of Elián
I’m thinking of Cuba, of Ceuta and death by water
or death by desert, which is more inhumane?
Why does this report break my heart today?
Is it the exotic port name? Or the thought of Eritrean
souls downed in the Mediterranean?
I once saw Euro tourists ferried with cars on board
to islands of sumptuous beauty
Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, playgrounds for europeos
now haunted by Yemeya´s children

I am the daughter of a man who at age fourteen
walked the desert for days, sunsick and weakened
He took blows to the head then woke up in jail
to witness the broomstick beating of an elderly man.
When my father died at seventy-seven,
now alone in his own kind of frailty
his house was empty except for a Bible,
a typewriter, and notes of his own crossing at Yuma.

I have strolled on Corsican beaches and know the summer
throngs along the Côte d’Azur, what is that luxury worth?
Will we not see their faces in the waves?
Where does nationality go when the body disappears?
They are fellow citizens of my
paisas in the desert, the unnamed but numbered,
How is it that we house the dead in modern stateside morgues
but we cannot shelter the living, we cannot offer a hand?
When a child suckling her mother’s milk empties
the right breast, does she not move on to the left?
Are we not free to search our Madre Tierra
as free to search and settle, in her fertile curves?

Refugees who’d survived the fire on the waters
did not stay put in their shelters, in spite of
welcome kits of deodorant and toothpaste.
Officials were astounded by those who fled
to run free is to know you’re hunted
but what is worse? Death by drowning on a fiery ship
or death by heat and fortified funneling through
a hell of bracken fields and barren waste that ends in Pima county?

To be alive at Lampedusa, or Ceuta or Arizona
could only hold a lamplight to your heart
You would know the gift of a new day, a drink of water
of refuge from the sun. For those of us settled
may we imagine what we can we give
in this vast land grab that is our lives,
mired in property deeds and purchasing power,
the need to ship your car by ferry on holiday
We will never know the force of hunger or the urge to run
or the absolute gold that is every day of strength and life before you.

 

 

Leticia Del Toro has had work appear in Huizache, Mutha Magazine, ZYZZYVA and Palabra magazine among others. Her honors and awards include a Hedgebrook Residency for Women Authoring Change, a fellowship from the New York State Summer Writers Institute, participation in the Voices of Our Nations Arts program, a 2015 finalist for the Maurice Fiction Prize for the collection “Café Colima” and attendance at Bread Loaf 2016 as a Rona Jaffe Scholar in fiction. She is a California teacher, arts activist and mother with roots in Jalisco, Mexico.

 

“Aubade in Which Grace Appears” by Erica Sofer Bodwell

aubade1
“Aubade in Which Grace Appears” by Pat Zalisko, 48×48, Acrylic on canvas.

We were damaged. We hurt people. We were called selfish so many times we figured what the fuck, and slid the last piece of steak from our grandmother’s plate. We stole pints of rum raisin even though the raisins thawed and spread like sticky insects on our tongues. We took it out on each other, oldest to youngest, until the dog got a bonnet tied so tight his eyes bugged out. We grew up and left that place, refugees—

We acquired husbands, student loans, a penchant for carving letters lightly into our forearms, kittens that kept coming. We left lovers in pick-up trucks to race home and open cans, scratch under wishbone chins. We got therapy. We went for walk after walk after walk in the woods. We filled the sink with hot water and washed dishes every day.

We stacked folding chairs, jiggled our knees when we sat, got sober standing before a chain link fence, pressing our foreheads to the grid. We inked stick figures on our forearms, mouths open, meowing. We were sorry and said so, and after a while our wheels ground to a gravelly stop. We didn’t know any better. And then we did, and bowed our heads.

 

 

Erica Sofer Bodwell is a poet who lives in Concord, New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Crab Fat, Minerva Rising, White Stag, APIARY, The Fem, Coal Hill Review, PANK, HeART and other fine journals. Her chapbook, Up Liberty Street, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press in February 2017.

 

“Velvet, velvet, velvet, knife” by E. Kristin Anderson

velvet-velvet
“Toppled Tree 10-16″ by Pat Zalisko, 64×47, Acrylic on canvas.”

(after Prince)

Some carry a stiletto in their garter
along with everything else – Stevie Nicks

We put things in our shoes that sometimes
should not be there. Secrets or even feet,
jammed into the toes, our ankles swelling
turning, falling with every song we play out
with our toes.     We let the swell rise to
our knees and refuse the pain refuse
the scream because we know
what is most important.

I press the button on the radio and reach
for my thigh where I carry invisible weapons.
I press the button on the radio and reach
for my thigh where the fat was where
I have wasted away, not eating, not eating,
not feeling, waiting for comfort
and I press the button on the radio.

These days the sun shines but my ankles
feel wet like leaves left in the rain
for days and days and I watch
for your birds and see only
chickadees, everywhere, everywhere.
And what does it mean, these tiny,
tiny birds, hopping over cracks
in the sidewalk that I myself
trip through and worry for?

I reach for a weapon, lost to up-all-night
whimsy. I reach for a weapon and turn off
the radio and the light and close the shades
and wait in the dark for a sign.

 

 

E. Kristin Anderson is a multi-Pushcart-nominated poet and author who grew up in Westbrook, Maine and is a graduate of Connecticut College. She has a fancy diploma that says “B.A. in Classics,” which makes her sound smart but has not helped her get any jobs in Ancient Rome. Kristin the co-editor of Dear Teen Me, an anthology based on the popular website and her next anthology, Hysteria: Writing the female body, is forthcoming from Sable Books. She is currently curating Come as You Are, an anthology of writing on 90s pop culture for ELJ Publications. Her poetry has been published worldwide in many magazines and anthologies and she is the author of eight chapbooks including A Guide for the Practical Abductee (Red Bird Chapbooks), Pray Pray Pray: Poems I wrote to Prince in the middle of the night (Porkbelly Press), Fire in the Sky (Grey Book Press), She Witnesses (dancing girl press), and We’re Doing Witchcraft (Hermeneutic Chaos Press). Kristin is Special Projects Manager for ELJ and is a poetry editor at Found Poetry Review. Once upon a time she worked at The New Yorker. She now lives in Austin, TX where she works as a freelance editor and is trying to trick someone into publishing her full-length collection of erasure poems based on women’s and teen magazines. She blogs at EKristinAnderson.com and tweets at @ek_anderson.

“Aposematic Mimicry (or Love Poem #1)” by Kristen Scarlett

aposematic-mimicry-warning-signs-love-poem
“Warning Signs (Love Poem #1)” by Pat Zalisko, 44×58, Acrylic on canvas.

Aposematism describes a family of adaptations in which a warning signal (e.g. coloration) is associated with unprofitability to predators: poison, venom, etc.

You reverberate barometric tension—
pressure changes, rhythmic humming, sharp breaths and static.
But I know your body, its California kingsnake skin.
And its wild, plate-sized-pupil eyes when you’re caught off guard,
like the immediacy of kicked-up dust—

Don’t think I can’t see the dozens of little mirrors in your eyes,
facing each other, feigning there’s more light in you than there is, but

We are not made for a world this bright, have to squint to see it the right way.
I relate to your shadows—I know that basement smell, too,
and your eyes pried open by shards of mirror. Your eyes, rolled back,
and your grin when you know you’ve done well—

Orbit at my edges, memorize these sharp places, and
when you’ve nearly torn me apart, I’ll push back.
You’ll have to be way up here to stick around. If you climbed up, and I saw
your shaking light in the dark star next to mine, you’d be almost torn, too, so

devastate me. Bring me to tears, and make me hide them.
Hold me down, punch me in the stomach, choke me until I see bright flashes,
glimmers, and I’ll wonder if light is love after all.

 

 

Kristen Scarlett is a writer from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cape Fear Living Magazine, and East End Elements, and she received second place in the SCCC Creative Writing Award for College Writers in 2015. Her hobbies include fancy teas, existential crises, and musing with her cat, King Charles.

 

“Dark Feather” by Christine Fadden

dark-feather
“Didn’t Make It,” Image by Dawn Surratt

You fell in the fall.
A few feet,
out front.
Impossible.

In those seconds of slipping
black paint arcing above you like a crow’s wing
a brush spinning away from your hand
that paint
pooling on the pavement of your driveway
and then drying,
this is when you start dying.

When spring comes,
too soon this year,
it will go to your garden out back,
to land light
on those boulders we hauled
from dead Drunkard Joe’s yard
before his house sold.

In the spring, the catnip will sprout.
Your cats remain
cared for.

You fell in the fall
but spring will be the season when
suddenly nobody will see you
tending to future tomatoes
changing out the seed and suet
watering soil for berries you would turn into jam.

We don’t know where
a slip will take us—
don’t ever imagine that a streak of black paint
on our hand
will weigh indelibly on the minds
of those we leave behind.
We don’t know when
the endangered birds we counted
will turn to zeros,
or if the wildflowers will ever come back
and prove the rain pretty.

 

 

Christine Fadden’s work appears in Hobart, Louisiana Literature, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Gulf Coast, The Louisville Review, PANK, Joyland, and elsewhere. She is the winner of the 2014 Tennessee Williams New Orleans Literary Festival Prize and the 2013 Blanchan Award through the Wyoming Arts Council. She lives in the Olympic Rain Shadow, beneath some trees.

Read an interview with Christine here.