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WEEK #4

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Cover art by: Christine tabaka


click on poet’s name to read their poetry

SPENCER REECE

Fan Fan (Translated by Wang Ping)

Yizhou, Nuanyang (Warm Sun) and Fanfan (Translated by Wang Ping)

Linda M. Crate

Jake Sheff

Mike L. Nichols

Dustin Brookshire

Siham Karami

Paul Ilechko

Kyle Hemmings

Linda Scheller

Michael Rothenberg

Tim Heerdink

Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick

Constant Laval Williams

Katrina K Guarascio

Donna Spruijt-Metz

Gary Glauber

Paul Koniecki

Edwin Olu Bestman

Agnes Vojta

Sonia Greenfield

John Stickney

Nathan Tompkins

Sarah Colón

Wolf Kevin Martin

Julene Tripp Weaver

Ken Hada

Boyd Bauman

Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal

Oladosu Michael Emerald

Christian Garduno

Cynthia Atkins 

Praise Osawaru

Jennifer Met

Susan Peters

Lisa Schapiro Flynn

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Lisa Schapiro Flynn

Lisa Schapiro Flynn
has poems published in journals including The Tishman Review, Radar Poetry, The Crab Creek Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, Noble/Gas Quarterly, UCity Review, Menacing Hedge, 13th Moon: a Feminist Literary Magazine, and others. She has an MFA in poetry from Emerson College. She lives in the far suburbs of New York City with her family and two rescued dogs. She holds down a very adult job and hopes to publish her first poetry collection soon.

 

CLAW

As I drive south on Route 6, I see a water tower with metal above it.
A radio mast or crow’s nest, outlined with metal gridwork, illusions its top
to spell out CLAW. When I approach, the word unfolds
like an anamorphic illusion into its parts:
separate steel stanchions that don’t spell anything.

I see CLAW because I am guilty
about picking apart a lobster who must’ve been a mother.
A large sac I pulled from her gut was dark purple.
She had red roe stitched up her tail.
I ate her as my daughter played behind me.

The lifeguards on Nantucket Sound are unmasked:
reddened teens in red halters and shorts, their flesh salted,
fresh. A girl gets buried in Chatham, nearly loses her life by digging
all the way to water, falling, the beach filling in around her,
her chest compressed by tons of sand.

The article shows her mother standing by, watching
as first responders create a corrugated plastic piping cage around her ribs.
The mother wears no mask. There are still such urgencies,
even as we seek protection. My mother gets the mail,
falls into the street at the top of her driveway

and is helped by two unmasked men who sprint from their vehicles.
The UPS driver keeps saying oh no! oh no!
Anyone can nearly die in her daily activities.
Your recall can start failing. You can wonder about your mind,
look away from a giant word that’s not really over the highway

wasn’t put there by an artist’s hand,
is unlike those 3-D art installations where
you look from one angle and see a rifle or James Joyce, then
you walk away and everything falls apart
into disparate component shapes.

 

Visitation/2020

 
Twice this summer,
a ghost comes to my mother.
Suddenly floral, the den
is so suffused with scent –
lilies – even the dog rouses
to sneeze, walk circles,
the shiny marbles
of her eyes scanning
for an invisible body.

My grandmother favored
ancient house dresses
to perfume, owned a single lipstick
yet kept two glass bottles
of Glockengasse 4711
on a mirrored tray
on her dresser,
teal labels ornamented
in black and gold,
pink atomizers like tea roses.
4711 comes from Cologne,
the region of Germany
where her parents, brothers,
were lost into boxcars.

The perfume sat next to
black-and-white photos
of her gone family,
its number-name
bold as a tattoo.
I order my own bottle,
spray it like a séance,
hoping to inhale
the phantom scent
of lilies, hoping she was
our floral guest.

The tiny droplets suspend
like balloons.
I walk through
the nimbus, breathe molecules
into my chest. Hold them there:
astringent pepper, citrus, pine.
Not the lily’s fume and cloy.
I grieve a restless echo
never hers,
of stargazer, trumpet, Easter.

 

Block Party


That’s not a star, it’s a fucking planet
says the blonde whose name
always escapes me.
The only mom on the block who smokes
publicly, mother to three boys and no girls.
She wears low dresses.
I could count down the plink
of her middle rib cage, sternum,
climb the slopes of each breast.
Nights in the pitch-dark she walks
the dog down our block like
a woman who will kill
to make it work.
Our naked eyes look at Mercury.
My husband leans nearby,
clinks ice cubes against glass.
Her husband blasts Wagon Wheel
on a karaoke machine.
For a moment I feel I could
invite someone to rock me.
Instead, I grin the night out into
thick citronella and lantern haze,
drink vodka. Each one I throw down
flies like a comet, sears me
with an audible hiss.

 

Adaptation Abecedarian

Atlantic coast mussels synthesize methane, generate gill-energy;
bottom-dwellling Mediterranean Loricifera are anoxic,
creatures who don’t need air, lives spent ensconced in sediment and brine.
Downeast, sea-stars can grow new limbs –
everyone knows that.
Fewer know the talent of the echinoderm:
growing anew from a single limb.

Humans, we come from the sea. We grow, then have growths excised.
I, like the rest of us, synthesized ocean once, using
just a simple gland, that creature in my throat,
kicking saline vitality into my bloodstream.
Losing it, the cancered thyroid… is that what finally tethered
me to normalcy, the land-locked
numb of morning coffee and daily train rides, skyscrapers?

Once, long years ago, I was the vampire tetra of Venezuela,
propelling through water, leading with my needled mouth.
Quiet – in depths where soul is only echo – I would rule,
ribbon every blue-black, every green in dark blood,
skewer shining fish on the long bones of my teeth.

Today, I ride the local into the city, take the 7 to Queens,
under the river, out beside audacious shows of
verdant public greenery, up past 21 floors of vinegar-washed
windows. I avoid eye contact in the elevator, dream of swordfish cousins
(xiphias), who hunt how their bodies suggest,
zealously unzipping necks from heads. 

 

Susan Peters

Susan Peters
is relatively new to poetry.  An avid writer in school, she returned to it many years later after a career in fintech and law.

Gone

I.
The earth yields springtime hills
sprouting pungent ramps,
Garlic and musk. They said
you’d stay and heal.
Though, as the sun pulled the cold
from your bones,
you left.

II.
I met a man who resembled you
But there was a dark pool at his feet
That crept up his body until he vanished.

III.
A loud noise frightens a mink into eating her young.
My shadow self, always watching,
points at me – have you done the same?
Imposter mother – she accuses.

IV.
The earth’s demand
Became a plea for summer.
I forced myself to believe
Fairies danced under mushrooms
And trolls, moving rocks, made thunder.

Jennifer Met

Jennifer Met lives in a small town in North Idaho. She is a nominee for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net anthology, a finalist for Nimrod’s Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, and winner of the Jovanovich Award. Recent work is published or forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Gone Lawn, Juked, Midway Journal, The Museum of Americana, Nimrod, Ninth Letter, Sleet Magazine, and Zone 3, among other journals. She currently serves as an Assistant Prose Poetry Editor for Pithead Chapel and is the author of the chapbook Gallery Withheld (Glass Poetry Press) and a microchapbook, That Which Sunlight Chases, forthcoming from Origami Poetry Project.

 

AGNOSTIC

bedtime stories—
an owl calls
and God answers

               it’s something I have
               never given much thought
               you muse—this

is ridiculous
how could you never
slip to prayer?

               the tent suddenly smaller
               the clearing darker—
               where is the moon?

I am afraid
               to ask and you
                              are not and then

               a strange noise—
               our fighting
               for the flashlight

 

CORONA

The sun fastened itself to my chest,
unhinged my shadow longer, like a snake
uncoiled by the ground’s heated greed

and leak. Water grabbed cannot be held
forever—insists on movement, on escape,
only to feed the parched land’s endless throat.

Today I leave my house for the first time
in days. I skirt a village, its unmasked face
in endless sun as acne pitted

and sterile as a moon—one that shows
every meteorite’s strike, every lack
of breeze. Listen for those quick yips

followed by a bottom wiggling,
the tiny flag of a tail waving surrender. A prairie
dog’s curious nose, cute as a button

moving, peeking its button hole.
Something sexy in this closure, an opening.
But watching the boneyard bald

I hear only my mother’s spirit-warning
of fleas jumping. Plague, though, would
have killed the labyrinth dry in days,

I reason. No fleas would be left.
Today I walk, alone with my distance.
Exponential, decimation: these are the words

we are suddenly living, on the edge.
And walking, like the homey hole I love most,
is a mere cap to panic. Underneath, a prairie dog

scurrying, eyes scintillating. But even
without him the dusky doorway could hide
a burrowing owl, a snake, or even my growing

shadow. A darkness like false water on the horizon
slipping to night, slowly stealing back what it can
from this ghost town’s ragged dirt.

 

WHEN I WAS A TEEN MY MOTHER NEVER SAID BUT


I.

I always did challenge her throat with sound
and sighs. A rock in her throat—something she had
to strain to push past, her lips tangled tightly.
And they were monstrous, and they were
kept—eternally children, treats in the belly.

II.

It hurt a little, her pain holding honey
in the body of her own tearing sound.

Though the bodies were already people: girl,
and from the knife, a boy. Ashy. Bristling.

Parent a full belly. Trade. Missing this, let go
of a smile for the monster, the miracle.

III.

To see the girl, to judge her
always. If you can fix her,
don’t. It’s wasting your despair.
You daughter, you dare
stray beyond the term. You
fool, you daughter, you.
I do not work for you
as you are. You forced me to
the hands of this slip—
refusal—pressed to a click.
Release an open hand. Inside,
pulling the door closed behind.

Found poem created from: McGuire, Seanan. Deadlands: Boneyard. New York: TOR , 2017. Print. Part one: page 254. Part two: pages 122-124. Part three: pages 244-245.

Praise Osawaru

Praise Osawaru
is a writer and poet of Bini descent. A Best of the Net nominee, his works appear or are forthcoming in Cypress, Blue Marble Review, Giallo Lit, Glass Poetry, Ice Floe Press, Kalahari Review, Rising Phoenix Review, and elsewhere. He’s a 2020 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize Finalist, and he was also shortlisted for the Babishai 2020 Haiku Award and the Nigerian Students Poetry Prize 2020. He’s currently an undergrad at the University of Benin, and he’s a prose reader for Chestnut Review. Find him on Instagram/Twitter: @wordsmithpraise.

After Three Months Of Aloneness, My Mother Unloads Her Worries 

(after The Chaos of Distance)

In the copiousness of the night breeze & the presence of the dusky sky & lucid stars,
I sit on a wooden bench & peruse a succinct WhatsApp message from my mother.

Pray this pandemic ends soon. I have never been away from my family this long.
I have never been away from my family. Please, pray.

In the rhythm of her words, I see a balloon floating in an empty sky. I see a
lonesome bird with trimmed wings, unable to fly, cut off its flock. Some days ago,

a peek into my father’s room & I caught him modeling as a log, unwilling to flirt
with the spacious bed. His palms tucked inflexibly in his armpits. One trip before

the world stood still & now his other half is barred, ripped from his reach by an expanse.
I think of the last time I prayed. The memory is misty, like the dusty & dry wind

of the last harmattan season. With the liberation of air, from my mouth, hands clinched
& eyes sealed, I suppliantly tender a request for a turnaround, to God.

interwoven in a district

the closing-puncture in my right index finger swipes my sight for a moment & I permit it.
inside, a splinter lays, like an offspring in the belly of a breeding mother.

remove it & stop whining, my mother unfurled her lips that day, then faded
into the kitchen. now, a day has rolled by & my skin is stretching, the wood still

within. I thumbed the spot, tenderly, & in that expanse of seconds,
you could misname my fingers as two lovers, fondling. I wince & shiver

when I press too hard, pain & pleasure, interwoven in a district. there’s something
alluring about aching that cripples any musing of recovery. & so I sunk in it, thumbing

& thumbing, shivering & shivering. the sun recedes from the splaying sky & I find
myself before the frothing sink, my right palm osculating dishes in my left palm

with a sponge. like a sprung hunter’s snare, my mind traps a revelation—
the prickling in my finger had ceased, like a candle light puffed out by a sturdy wind.

Cynthia Atkins  


Cynthia Atkins  
is the author of Psyche’s Weathers and In The Event of Full Disclosure, and Still-Life With God (Saint Julian Press, 2020). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, including, Alaska Quarterly Review, Apogee, BOMB, Cleaver Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Denver Quarterly, Diode, Florida Review, Flock Lit, Green Mountains ReviewLos Angeles Review, North American Review, Rust + Moth, Sweet: A Literary Confection, SWWIM, Tampa Review, and Verse Daily, and nominated for Pushcart and Best of The Net. Formerly, Atkins worked as the assistant director of the Poetry Society of America. She has received fellowships from Bread Loaf and the VCCA.   Atkins teaches creative writing at Blue Ridge Community College and lives on the Maury River of Rockbridge County VA with her family. www.cynthiaatkins.com

 

Laundress of Words


Your handgun at the back of my neck
shepherds the demons to where limbo
glistens in a pool of light.  Inside a mirror,
I hiked up my skirt–I made a thunderclap
on this material earth.   Rag–picker, each holy
vowel wept when you didn’t answer
an inconsolable friend on the brink.
She penned a note before hanging
from the ceiling like a blown-out lantern.
At a rickety camp, we shared a duffle bag,
dirty clothes, and a first kiss.
A shadow of you.  All night we listened
to dogs barking across the canyons—Echoes
into the desire heard but never seen. 
Her teenaged letters curled and lassoed
around the page, gripping the edge
of a building—My hips and belly of bricks.   
Each word purged was a parachute
to grief.   Daily, raising a clean white flag, 
recovering our bodies—I inherited
interminable loss.  I heard two voices,
one of them was shame, the other was beauty.

 

The Fall of The Angels

(after Chagall)


In half-light, I saw my beloved
through intertwining branches
in the bojangle of woods—imagine
the opposite of a doctor’s
waiting room—the motorcade
of germs and ghosts that came
before us.  We step over
           the whispers, the worker bees
bantering in cafes, while me make
hot salty love at the watercooler
of a haystack, where a rooster
          crows like there’s no tomorrow.
My thighs wide as a four-letter word
This is the place where all life
intersects through pain. A wince
of comfort, a secret stash
         of contraband—Yesterday,
you rung the doorbell in our
next life. I heard my colossus
womp of clothes in the closet,
breathe their sigh of relief
from echoes in myself.  I watched
my Nana Ida set a table—
          Every shim and curve as if
for the Gods—Not her husband.
I used to watch a woman sing
out the window.  I am bone-china
on your archival dig, where Klezmer
       music paints December’s
branches, a sloppy wave of joy
and grief. Germs and ghosts.  In you,
I saw my body for the first time. 
A black Swan snapped an angel
from a bra strap, as you fetched
a wide-eyed Starling from its nest.

Christian Garduno

Christian Garduno edited the compilation Evolver and his own solo poetry collection Face as a History undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. His work can be read in over 40 literary magazines, including Riza Press, where his poem, “The Return”, was a 2019 Finalist in their Multimedia contest. He lives and writes along the South Texas coast with his wonderful wife Nahemie and young son Dylan. His newest work is a poetry chapbook, “Love Above the Armstrong Limit”.

Apparatus X

The Silent Majority never shuts up
Delay the Election
Take down all their names
Wipe everything down
Birth of a Nation
Stand Your Ground, ALEC
A man was lynched yesterday
The Southern Strategy
Mandatory Minimums
Super Predators
Truth in Sentencing
Free Markets
Stop + Frisk
Demon Sperm
Alien DNA
Person
Woman
Man
Camera
TV
Private ZTI goons gassing mothers
250,000+ US COVID deaths
Trump: “Nobody likes me”
[sad face emoji]

Oladosu Michael Emerald

Oladosu Michael Emerald is a writer,a poet and the author of “FAIL-LURES”. Michael has a silvery voice that etches in the hearts of the audience. He is a lifelong reader and this intertwined his love for writing. He is also an artist and a sculptor. These are what shapes his identity.

ii

walk in the thighs
of a faceless woman –
fall into the recession

Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal

Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
was born in Mexico, lives in California, and works in Los Angeles. His poems, books, and chapbooks have appeared in Blue Collar Review, Arial Chart, Crossroads Magazine, Kendra Steiner Editions, Pygmy Forest Press, Fearless, Unlikely Stories, Yellow Mama Webzine, and Heroin Love Songs.

Chloroform

after Ramon Maria Del Valle Inclan

I sprinkle chloroform
on petals
then take a whiff –
the sunlight is blinding.
I fall in the garden
bed and light
in my eyes soon turns dark.
I dream of cubist shapes
and figures and futurist
images devouring flowers
drenched in chloroform.