“God Asks Why” by Peter Groesbeck.
(See also “Fecundity Expanse” by Sasha West.)
My father swears up and down
that, when he was thirteen,
he mistook an unmarked vat
of kerosene for water. In this
as in all things, he drank
with gusto. Everything burned
inside him for days.
I cannot help but feel sick
superiority when I tell someone
I don’t drink. Vodka, whiskey—lesser spirits
might heed whispered invitations
to woozy, jet-propelled calamity. But each
shot of firewater is exactly that
to my guts: corrosion, all the way down.
Walking down my street
past the liquor store, I watch
the neighborhood boys siphoning
gasoline to trade for nips.
Two teenagers hand the tube
to a younger one. They say, “Don’t worry,
everyone swallows some the first time.”
Lanier (Lane) Wright Fields is a southern transplant living and working in Boston, Massachusetts. Professionally, Lane has performed technology witchcraft, taught sociology, worked in a factory, and gone corporate. Besides poetry, Lane’s hobbies and interests include music and shows, leftist activism, veg*n cooking, straight edge and hardcore subcultures, video game history, philosophy and social theory, and spiritual development.
“Womb” by Mia Avramut, wax on paper, 5.8 x 8.2 in.
(See also “Fulfillment” by Avital Gad-Cykman.)
Certain alpha hoopoes have the taste
For both, Philomel and Itys.
In India, they prey after dark when exhaust
From the beer factory gags the sky so tight
One can taste the malt in their wing pits.
Gods know. They respond by reforming
Believers into nightingales; into swallows.
Then they take a break from trying.
Conjure new Ovids, request new hosannas.
Certain ranting rebel birds—
They reconfigure into line-following photovores
You find, clung to guardrails
Or reflected on neo-colonial candelabra—
Their muscles pumped with plastic blood
Programmed to put them in auto reverse
Soon as they hit a wall.
Then they make walls, beautiful walls.
Then they take down the lights. Observe.
Those that repeat-fail clearly-laid rules,
They transform them into fire ants
You find, after a storm has warped the steel,
Their arteries choked with moon-lather
That would put them on burn
Soon as someone touches them.
Sabyasachi Nag is the author of two books of poetry: Bloodlines (Writers Workshop, 2006) and Could You Please, Please Stop Singing (Mosaic Press, 2015). His work has appeared, or is forthcoming in several publications including, Contemporary Verse 2, Perihelion, The Squaw Valley Review, The Rising Phoenix, Void and the VLQ. Originally from Calcutta, India, Sachi lives in Mississauga, Ontario with his wife and son. He is an alumni of the Squaw Valley Writer’s Conference and is currently a candidate in the Writer’s Studio at the Simon Fraser University. He works in education and human resources.
“Turtle Territory” by Lori McNamara, oil on archival board, 2011.
(See also “Hatchlings” by William Woolfitt.)
When I swam away from Gloria Regalbuto the catamaran captain
was watching from the stern as I thrashed about with leg cramps
and waved and began my stop-and-start swim back to the boat.
It was summer. He had anchored off the North Shore of Oahu
and now he was smiling, reaching out as I grabbed a ladder.
Maybe I would have done anything to leave behind the aahh
of her loved mouth and a longing so hot it kept singeing me
and searing the air. Onboard again, I flopped awkwardly
in a corner. Leaned against a great deal of brightness.
I heard dolphins voicing, their fins whipping up
wingtip-white vortices as they raced the catamaran.
My time under water had flashed with starburst fishes
stock-still in the currents and reef as if what they were
was backdrop for a mirror of North Shore blue. I heard
someone treading water and scented a brine of ocean.
Planes of island light broke apart and reformed as if
vanishing and now revealing someone who waited
in the trough of a wave by the rocking catamaran.
Roy Bentley is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry from the National
Endowment for the Arts, and fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and the Ohio Arts Council. Books include Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama), Any One Man (Bottom Dog), The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine), Starlight Taxi (Lynx House); as well as Walking with Eve in the Loved City, a finalist for the 2018 Miller Williams Poetry Prize selected by Billy Collins and due out from the University of Arkansas Press.
“Squash Tendril” by Jenn Rhubright.
(See also “Rose” by Dylan Landis.)
You can contract the prosthetic
hold, the bad news:
I’m bandaged down to your donor
tissue. The puncture was about finish
lines. Someday maybe I’ll get there
return to my body wondering why
I run, beautifully
Billie Tadros is a Lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. She earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and her M.F.A. in Writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her first book of poems The Tree We Planted and Buried You In is forthcoming from Otis Books in 2018. She has also published two chapbooks, inter: burial places (Porkbelly Press, 2016) and Containers (Dancing Girl Press, 2014). Her poems have recently appeared or will appear in Crab Fat Magazine, Entropy, Lavender Review, pnk prl, and White Stag Journal, and she has also published work in the anthologies The Queer South (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2014), Bearers of Distance (Eastern Point Press, 2013), and Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013).
At Rest, image by Karen Bell.
(See also “Recovery” by Jeanetta Calhoun Mish.)
because you return to our bedroom hours after you promised,
because you must steady yourself against the jamb, which means you’ve driven drunk,
because as your silhouette rides up the wall like an island drawn thin by river currents,
i sense the quicksilver pulse of your clenching need,
because your hands grope cold against my bed warmed breasts,
because when i turn away, your lips plant counterfeit baubles against my neck,
and when you ask me why i’m crying, you refuse to let me answer,
and murmur “I would never hurt you,” unaware your tense describes
things imagined but not true.
your breathing deepens and i imagine you’ve slipped into sleep,
but returning from the hypothetical, you roll me onto my back and pin my wrists,
where you imprint semicolons into the paper lantern skin.
beneath you, i too punctuate what must be done: the whites piled in the laundry room,
the dishes unwashed in the sink, hummingbird feeders full of drowned ants.
tomorrow you will awake late, and i will have put on my coffee,
and you may or may not remember tonight, a shadow passing over your face
as dark as the bruises smudging my inner thighs. but i won’t bring it up
because this is not a love poem,
but it is yours all the same.
Gina Marie Bernard is a trans woman, roller derby vixen, and full-time English teacher. She has completed a 50-mile ultra-marathon, followed Joan Jett across the US, and purposely jumped through a hole cut in lake ice. She lives in Bemidji, Minnesota. Her daughters, Maddie and Parker, own the two halves of her heart. She has written one YA novel, Alpha Summer (2005), and one collection of short fiction, Vent (2013). Her poetry has recently appeared in Mortar, The Cape Rock, New Plains Review, and Leveler.
“Sanctuary” by Suzanne Stryk 2007,
see also “Christmas Cactus” by Ann Goldsmith
Let me tell you about the Christmas that ruined
Every one that followed.
Let me tell you about the night I was eight, nearly nine.
I wore a red velvet dress, with white trim,
My hair half-up with a sparkly bow,
Ready to go to my uncle’s to celebrate.
The smell of ham that had been in the oven all afternoon
Called to me from downstairs,
Invited me to come down.
Let me tell you about my mother, and how beautiful she looked.
How she was downstairs already,
Fixing her smooth hair in the mirror.
She was frowning, nearly in tears,
But still lovely.
My brother and I raced to get to her, to the ham,
To the blinking Christmas lights below.
My father then, burst out of the study, a furious storm.
He rained on her with biting words and she trembled
As she reached for the garage door and whisked inside,
Trying to find her shoes.
Let me tell you how he came after her,
And the whole world came screeching to a halt.
How the door fell closed behind him with no one to stop it,
But I could still hear the sound of my beautiful mother screaming,
The crunching of blows, the thundering boom
Of her head, slamming the wall.
Let me tell you how I stood there and did nothing,
On the fifth step from the bottom,
The one that always creaked every day when I rushed downstairs,
Now held me grounded like quicksand. Let me tell you how I always
Used to cry about anything, but this time,
not a squeak came out, not a tear.
I felt nothing, and I did nothing, my legs timber logs
That weighed several tons. I did nothing. I did nothing.
The seconds crawled, as my mother came out weeping.
She charged up the stairs,
Scooping my brother and me in her arms,
And barricaded us in her room with her. Let me tell you how
She sobbed for hours after, whispering us comforts
Let me tell you how I clutched the hand-held phone in my shaking hands,
Staring at the digits that lit up back at me, and willed my brain to work,
For my fingers to follow and dial someone, anyone.
How my mother wrenched it out of my hand and cried,
“It’s okay, hija, it’s okay.”
Let me tell you how my father murmured apologies through the door,
And when she opened it, something inside of me boiled
That still burns and left scars. Let me tell you how she forgave him,
And we went to that damned party at my uncle’s, how
She screamed at me to smile
When my eyes looked a little too far away,
How we never spoke of it again, and the cheerful pictures
From the party only proved nothing had ever happened.
Let me tell you because I was made to never speak of it,
Because at nine and ten I wondered if I had somehow dreamt it all up,
If my mind had played some nasty trick on me, and at eighteen
The sight of Christmas lights still brings me back to those stairs.
Let me tell you because it’s the only thing I still remember.
Wanda Deglane is a freshman at Arizona State University, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She is the daughter of Peruvian immigrants and lives with her huge family in Glendale, Arizona. When she isn’t writing, she paints and spends time with her dog, Princess Leia.