by Annica Edstrom

Step 1) You live in a tiny house.

The one farthest away from the tiny village. This is essential,

your outsider status is necessary to the adventure.

Step 2) You must have or find a secret garden,

which leads to a secret path,

which leads to a secret magical lake.

Step 3) There is a fox that looks at you every morning at sunrise

on the tiny porch of your tiny house.

Step 4) You notice the fox has two heads.

He beckons you closer. You must follow him,

you must follow him.

Step 5) He takes you to your garden and then to your secret lake,

but only you and the birds

know about the lake.

Step 6) He asks if he can ask you a question.

Don’t correct his grammar, he’s new at this.

Just say yes, yes.

Step 7) The red fox head will ask you if you’re happy here.

You’re not, but sometimes you feel that you are.

The orange fox head offers you escape through the lake,

but to enter the new world you will have to destroy this one.

Step 8) Think carefully, do not ask the foxes how the world will end.

That is another question and if you use it you will forget this and forget me.

Step 9) One offers absolution and one offers rapture.

Step 10) This town was never kind to you and no one is your friend.

Step 11) Your family loves you. Your mother loves this town.

Step 12) I’m waiting here, just beyond the lake.

Step 13) Choose wisely, choose wisely.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Annica Edstrom is a young writer currently attending an arts-based high school. She has been writing since a young age and is very interested to further her career and broaden her horizons within writing.

by Alison Jennings

The miniature pink rose is brightly blooming now,  

but its spent flowers bow: she pinches these by hand.

This “tool” is banned by Sunset Gardening, which tells us how  

to cut with clippers (a sacred cow), yet Alison can’t stand  

to when, you see, it’s grand to feel the plant allow

such gentle nips—anyhow, fingers crave a verdant land.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Alison Jennings is a retired public schoolteacher and former CPA; throughout her life, she has composed over 400 poems, and recently published a couple of them. She lives in Seattle, and writes poetry whenever she has a moment to contemplate the universe in a thoughtful manner.

by Nivi Engineer

He approaches with pen and paper,

asks for my name and number.

I indulge him

his daily ritual;

I’m a stranger, after all

and he, gracious host,

offers donuts I refuse.

So to this small request, how can I say no?

He writes my name

then—digit by digit—jots it down,

a number he hasn’t dialed in months,

a quest for connection,

a map to a road he’ll never drive.

But tomorrow, I know,

he may discover the paper in the pocket

of the pants he’s reluctant to change.

And if I’m here when he does it,

he’ll at least marvel at the coincidence.

But this time,

he asks—

unlike before—

“Whose child are you?”

I reply, watching his face. 

“Yours.”

And the joyous smile, the marvel,

is enough.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Nivi Engineer (yes, that really is her last name) is the author of The Indian Girl's Definitive Guide to Staying Single. Her work appears in The Louisville Review, Crack the Spine, Belletrist, Page and Spine, and other literary journals. She's spent way too much time in school: BA in English from Case Western Reserve University, MS in Computer Science from Washington University in St. Louis, MFA in Fiction from Spalding University. Which come in handy as she drives her kids to soccer all around the Greater Cleveland area, where she lives with her husband, 3 sons, and dog.

by Amanda Moore

Pretend it was a different adventure:

we traveled in our Chrysler down

8 Mile Road as if in a dinghy

gliding from the bright layer cake of yacht

toward an undiscovered port. Pretend

we were prepared for the awkwardness

of being foreign, of seeking flimsy familiarity

and the perfect snapshot to send home.

We pictured white sheets and hand-holding,

new scenery and our faces changed.

But really it was like the tropics in July: sweaty

and panting, private and primal.

Paradise to one traveler is often hell for another,

so I won’t bore you with the hours passed

watching the ocean swell and retreat,

the tall grasses bend and part in the wind

and some crazy, hooting monkey pulling itself up and down

impossibly straight tree trunks.

When we left at last we had a souvenir,

a golden idol shaped by heat

and meant to be worshipped.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Amanda Moore's poetry has appeared in journals and anthologies including ZZYZVA, Cream City Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Best New Poets, and Mamas and Papas: On the Sublime and Heartbreaking Art of Parenting, and she is the recipient of writing awards from The Writing Salon, Brush Creek Arts Foundation, and The Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts. She received her MFA from Cornell University, where she served as Managing Editor for EPOCH magazine and a lecturer in the John S. Knight Writing Institute. A high school English teacher, Amanda lives by the beach with her husband and daughter in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco. More about her is at http://amandapmoore.com.

by Jennifer Saunders

             “ … Whatever

            mistakes we make, we will become what we are

            because of our blunders.”

                        Dorianne Laux “Zulu, Indiana (An Ode to the Internet)”

 

O stirrup pants, o acid-washed jeans, o single

black lace glove and rubber bracelets. Forgive me,

but you were mistakes, all of you,

you and the thigh-ripped-open jeans

I criss-crossed with skate laces. O big hair,

o green eye shadow, o hanging out on the beach

drinking ill-gotten Bartles & Jaymes and letting JP

of the fake ID unlace me and feed me

vodka-spiked watermelon

and slide his fingers inside me.

O dark parking lot, o end of the lane.

O you missteps, you well-practiced mistakes,

you paving of my crooked road. Fender-bender

in the McDonald’s parking lot

on the way home from Great America

because I was too impatient

to wipe the steam from the back window.

The ride I hitched with those guys

who turned out to be high

and on shore leave. O narrow escapes.

That haircut sophomore year.

That blue Prom dress. Jellies.

Not going to Homecoming with G

because nice guys scared me

more than JP and his Alabama Slammers.

O grapefruit diet, o Jane Fonda’s Workout, o beginning

of erasure. Daisy Dukes and ankle boots,

D+ in calculus, girl sitting in the back row

chewing her hair. O child, o paving stone,

o boat somebody else rowed. Off-the-shoulder

sweatshirts, “Let’s Get Physical,” o parachute pants—

the kind that were so easy to slip out of.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Jennifer Saunders is a poet living in German-speaking Switzerland. Her chapbook, Self-Portrait with Housewife, was selected by Gail Wronsky as the winner of the 2017 Clockwise Chapbook Competition and is forthcoming from Tebot Bach Press. Her work has appeared in Crab Fat Magazine, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, SpillwayThe Shallow Ends, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Jennifer holds an MFA from Pacific University and in the winters she teaches skating in a hockey school.

by Julia C. Alter

I’ve said I remember nothing

of the first three months.

But when I start peeling back

the bleary out-of-body shroud,

the stitches, the sitz baths,

there’s the milk-

stained blue couch

where I woke in the blue

light, turning off

my alarm, turning on

the yellow pump

and the TV, every three hours

another automatic emptying.

An ounce or two, less than half

of what you needed, the box

of formula unopened

in the pantry. The refusal

to open, scoop, measure.

Watching the famous California chef

pipe Meyer lemon crème fraiche

into an empty egg shell with the 

razor-cut cap, nothing

had ever been

so luxuriously precise.

And I remember

taking scissors

to my head

the next morning, wet

hair punctuating

the floor. Reading it

like tea leaves,

no room for pretty here.

Milk extracted

from my tits

like lemon juice

in the eye,

like a man

fighting

the urge to cry.

Thin cord of milk

pulled reluctantly

from the new abyss

where your body used

to be,

haphazard

grotesque,

a rough white rope

up through

my

breast is best

No, I’ll never forget

the sucking

that yellow machine did

when you couldn’t.

How I would

grind my teeth

like I was coming down

off ecstasy

when the only thing left

is the chills,

the useless hollows

of a body

shitting and shivering,

the threat

of the flesh

coming back,

feverish and frigid

fragile

as 4 AM           as baby            an egg shell                

opened up

and ready

to be filled

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Julia C. Alter is living, writing, and raising a toddler in Burlington, Vermont. Her poems can be found in, or are forthcoming from Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Storyscape, CALYX, Rogue Agent, and elsewhere.

by Catherine Maryse Anderson

My son was proud of his performance

on stage, or so I thought by his

posture and grin.

His drum solo was intoxicating, 

his smile like maple syrup on

pancakes, overflowing.

Did you notice that all the Black 

kids were in the back? And you know

it’s not because we're not as good.

You know that, right? he said, the 

syrup falling off the fork, onto his lap.

The music he played turning to static.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Catherine Maryse Anderson is a poet, essayist, photographer, anti-racist ally, educator and director and curator of the performing arts in Portland, Maine. Her first manuscript Black Enough, which she began at her stay at the Martha’s Vineyard Writers Residency in April, 2014 was recently completed. She blogs and shares her poems and photography at mamacandtheboys.com.

by Sarah Kilch Gaffney

A book from your college days

tucked next to my Strunk & White,

your name scrawled

on a page in your mix

of capitals and lowercase.

Such precision of bloom dates,

soil pH, and mineral composition,

almost invasive in the details

of the little lives of these plants.

You always said you wanted

to take me to the Adirondacks.

A trip .02 degrees north never made.

It is a prayer of sorts

to touch these pages

of bloodroot and bittersweet,

trillium and nightshade,

paper birch and hornbeam.

I pause on Monotropa uniflora:

Indian pipe, otherwise, ghost

pipe, corpse plant, one

they say can grow

even absent all light.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Sarah Kilch Gaffney is a writer, brain injury advocate, and homemade caramel aficionado. She lives in Maine and you can find her work at www.sarahkilchgaffney.com.

by Peggy Landsman

Simple physics, a cinch, the tock-tick of it all;

Though they haven’t a clue to the trick of it all.

Light cones. The über-timeline. The multiverse. No strings.

Theorizing the cosmologic of it all.

Construct dream castles in the air, but do not move in.

Come down to earth, the mortar and brick of it all.

The ontology of Being with a capital “B”

or a small “b.” The dialectic of it all.

Turn on. Tune in. Drop out. Sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll…

There’s no escaping the dead and the quick of it all.

Let’s look deep into each other’s eyes, initiate

our intimate connection. The orgasmic of it all.

And let’s raise our half-full glasses and toast the other half;

Delight in the pointless, gorgeous music of it all.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Peggy Landsman is the author of a poetry chapbook, To-Wit To-Woo (Foothills Publishing). Her work has been published in many literary journals and anthologies, including, most recently, The Hypertexts, Gyrosocope Review, and Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse (Lost Horse Press). She currently lives in South Florida where she swims in the warm Atlantic Ocean every chance she gets. See more at peggylandsman.wordpress.com.

My mistress sings the triumph of the Maid

by Marci Vogel

[The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry manuscript of Christine de Pizan. BnF, fr. 1183, fol. NP]

                                                                                    The Song of Joan of Arc

1 ]        Je         Christine         

                                    enclosed because of treachery

                        I begin now     to laugh

2 ]        I will change    my language

                        from weeping               to singing

            I have well endured      my share

3 ]                    The sun brings back    the good new

            season              I no longer grieve       

                        I see                 what I desire

4 ]        dry land           green

5 ]        The cast out child        who suffered

                        rose     as a crowned    king

                                                wearing            spurs of gold

6 ]        Let us celebrate

                        let us all go       great & small—

            may no one hold back             praising           

7 ]        I won't omit     anything

8 ]                    May it be of value        to those

            Fortune has beaten down

9 ]        Fortune is always changing     

                        in whom hope             lives on

10 ]      Who has seen  

                        something extraordinary          changed          

            from evil          to great good

11 ]                  & truly            through such a miracle

            no one would believe it—     

12 ]      Divine proof    never erred      in faith

13 ]                  You who waged a great war    

            see how            your renown is exalted

14 ]      Your country   you were losing            you have

                        recovered it—

21 ]                  And you           blessed Maid

            you      undid the rope

61 ]      This poem was finished by Christine in the above-mentioned year 1429, on the day that

ends July. But I understand that some people will not be satisfied with its contents, for

if one's head is lowered and one's eyes are heavy one cannot look at the light.

           

            Here ends a most beautiful poem written by Christine.

“The Tale of Joan of Arc" translated by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski. The Selected Writings of Christine de Pizan: Norton Critical Edition, ed. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Kevin Brownlee (New York: Norton, 1997). 

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Marci Vogel is the author of At the Border of Wilshire & Nobody, winner of the inaugural Howling Bird Press Poetry Prize, and Death and Other Holidays, winner of the inaugural Miami Book Fair/de Groot Prize for the Novella. Her poetry, prose, translations, and cross-genre inventions appear in Jacket2, VIDA, Seneca Review and FIELD. She currently teaches poetry and translation at the University of Southern California.

by Taylor Altman

Past Skokie lawns flat as cemeteries

and airport buildings passing the sherbet colors of evening

down Harms Road, past the College Prep Academy, a group of boys

 

hacks through June’s first greenery

dreaming of the city on the other side, Lake Michigan’s

icy cut, mafiosos trailing blue Fibonacci spirals of smoke

 

from speakeasies and casinos. They don’t know

that other city, the ghost city beneath the lake, zoned

within its loneliness like a boy on the last day

 

of his childhood, turning inward to a shore unknown

to his father and brothers, the sheer blue panels

of a Calder mobile. The lake is full of stories, voices

 

and stories, boys stripped naked to the waist

and flayed by poison ivy, boys becoming trees, becoming

air, the circus of clouds moving silently

 

across the Plains suffused with light

from a distant star and floating back to earth, becoming the men

who work the great belching factories of Detroit

 

and Kenosha, expressions forged in steel, who press the levers

and pistons resounding in the vast cathedral

of work, holiest of names unspoken, the evening clouds

 

piling one atop the other, concatenating

like stories, twisting, funneling, each more intricate

than the last, bone-delicate and pale, sifted from the throats

 

of boys who float chained to one another

and the shore, a line of empty boats rocking end to end

in the fathomless kingdom of night.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Taylor Altman is an attorney in San Francisco. She holds a BA from Stanford University, an MFA in creative writing from Boston University, and a JD from Berkeley Law School. Prior to law school, she worked at an educational non-profit organization and taught English at a community college. Her work, twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, has appeared in journals such as Blackbird, Notre Dame Review, and Salamander. Her first collection of poems, Swimming Back, was published in 2008.

by Clair Dunlap

through the blue behind my eyelids,

i reach for all of it—

the hill of ivy fat with wolf spiders and sow bugs

hollow bones thinning under the cedar

raccoons washing their fingers of fish

at the water’s edge.

spooning the thin lines between things into my wet mouth

and spooling them haphazard around my teeth,

making a golden net of my throat—

i must have turned my brain into this mess:

purple an octopus’ cheek and also

a bruising scar from falling along the creek

not duplicated, just

synapsed in some misfiring imagination

they won’t catch on the heavy films.

in st. paul, the tiger lilies begin to bloom. i imagine instead

the alevin’s yolked throat  

oyster mushroom squatting against a nurse log’s back,

slick and dark with rain

nasturtiums crowded thick along the estuary’s stink

the quickest short circuit nostalgia buzzes

and winter crawls out of me in a silvered run

sharpens itself at the back of my skull.

once, i picked a tongue-pink petal

from a rhododendron and touched it to my own—

i was always growing where i shouldn’t

thickening the string between each disparate thing, like

my knee a facsimile of st. helens’ shuffled summit

making me ≥ a mountain—

and in this tube, my stomach green as lake light

still incubates, seasonlessly, the flat leaves

lying in wait for the right flower

or the most poignant tongue

or the good brain

whichever the pain can invent first.

here and back then, i have the most golden throat

where all the places are one place in the swallow.

they won’t see it in the reading,

the light made up of so many knotted strings so as to build the hottest sun

ruining the images like too much hell—

i exist in an overactive hemisphere

i do feel the suboccipital light, a daybreak.

it’s just not right here, although my blue fingers always reach

even as i lie metal-less and still.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Clair Dunlap grew up just outside Seattle, Washington, and started writing poems at the age of six. She is the author of In the Plum Dark Belly (Beard Poetry, 2016) and her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Glass: A Journal of Poetry, L'Éphémère Review, Hobart, Peach Mag, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Occulum, Noble / Gas Qtrly, and more. She currently lives in the Midwest and answers research questions in an academic library.

by Rebecca Hart Olander

Mine died when I hit middle age, he still young

at sixty-eight. I’ll never say we’re through.

He is that creature under the cold Atlantic blanket,

migratory mammal, singing a complex song,

large heart beating in time with mine, wide cetacean

smile, throat pleats, fluke, and fin. All that potential

lamplight and winter warmth stored in his immortal bulk.

No harvested baleen, no corset bone. He’ll never stop

his route, though sometimes he needs to breach,

and once I dreamed he beached. I tried to drag him back

to the surf, where the salt could lick his wounds

and he could open one eye to the sun.

But that was a nightmare. The truth is in the Gulf

Stream, dark shadow spouting, swimming with seals.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Rebecca Hart Olander’s poetry has appeared recently in Ilanot Review, Plath Poetry Project, and Solstice, and collaborative work made with Elizabeth Paul has been published in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (BLP) and online at Duende. Rebecca won the 2013 Women’s National Book Association poetry contest. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she teaches writing at Westfield State University and is the editor/director of Perugia Press. Find her at rebeccahartolander.com.

by Sarah Wetzel

I wanted to tell her that I knew the truth—

she didn't adopt her dog from a kill shelter,

which is what she was telling a group of us.

I held my tongue for fear of appearing petty.

We all want to be better than we are.

Yesterday, my brother called and asked for money.

At first, I told him no.

But he'd received the third notice from Georgia Power

so I paid his $700 electric bill though told him

never again, unless his wife got a job, any job.

I cc'ed her on the email.

She wrote back, you're an awful person

with a mixture of rage and bitterness I could hear

even on the screen. Still, this time

I meant it. I overheard the woman at the party

tell her friend they'd actually purchased the dog

from a breeder in upstate New York.

We spent so much money, we could have adopted

a baby from China. I found her statement funny.

I want to be better. I want to save a dog, to save

my brother. I want to tread lightly on this world without

leaving footprints or too many

plastic wrappers. I want to see Singapore

and Vietnam, to spend a summer in Italy writing

short stories and a sonnet or two.

Learn to tango and foxtrot equally well.

I want to be good.

I want to write one poem so perfect

that when I'm dead, a stranger will pin it to the wall,

perhaps even claim it as their own.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Sarah Wetzel is the author of River Electric with Light, which won the AROHO Poetry Publication Prize and was published by Red Hen Press in 2015, and Bathsheba Transatlantic, which won the Philip Levine Prize and was published in 2010. A PhD student in Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, Sarah also teaches creative writing at The American University of Rome. You can read some of her work at www.sarahwetzel.com.

by Yaddyra Peralta

            For Hurricane Irma

 

Come water.

Come lift me

bodily, in hopes

that my soul too

may rise.

Come wreck

the artifacts

of this lived life.

Come lick

my fingerprints off

the childhood photos.

 

Take the travel guidebooks,

the embossed-in-plastic

Made in Chinas.

Carry me out

to open sea.

Let the salt feed

on my memories.

Outliving the Holocene

drifting and unseen

with the plankton

let me live.

Past memory, I will return

too cool to be a prodigal.

__________________________________________________________

Yaddyra Peralta is a poet. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Jai-alai, Abe’s Penny, Tigertail, The New Poet, and Hinchas de Poesia. In 2013 she was a Visiting Writer at the Betsy Hotel’s Writer’s Room in South Miami Beach, Florida, and one of six collaborative Helen M. Salzberg Artists in Residence at Florida Atlantic University’s Jaffe Center for the Book Arts, where she completed the book Conversation, Too, along with Tom Virgin, John Dufresne, Kari Snyder, Laura Tan and Michael Hettich.

by Nicole Callihan

Born, I cried,

and growing, I cried.

Gathering the broken egg, I cried.

Making the pancakes, eating the pancakes,

cleaning up after the pancakes, I cried.

Watching you swim to the deep area, I cried.

Watching you return to the shallows, I cried.

When my husband could not love me

like I wanted, I cried.

When I could not love my husband

as he needed, I cried.

When we loved each other anyway, I cried.

 

And then, there was the pulling of the weeds,

which I did all morning, crying,

and the watching them return,

which I did all afternoon, crying.

Now, evening, and what am I to do

but pull the weeds again,

and let the mosquitos suck on me,

and watch the stars come out, one by one?

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Nicole Callihan’s books include SuperLoop (Sockmonkey Press 2014), and the chapbooks A Study in Spring (2015), The Deeply Flawed Human (2016), Downtown (2017), and Aging (2018). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Sixth Finch, Painted Bride Quarterly, The American Poetry Review, and as a Poem-a-Day selection from the Academy of American Poets. Her latest project, Translucence, a dual-language, cross-culture collaboration with Palestinian poet Samar Abdel Jaber, was released by Indolent Books in 2018.

by Catherine Abbey Hodges

Sunday morning in the church of air,

great blue heron hunched over the good

book, chapters and verses swirling

about his legs.

Never the same river,

always the same word—history, proverb,

psalm, parable—and the one sermon

in many tongues season to season,

moment to moment, whether

I attend or not.

   Pews of lichened granite,

obsidian cherts that caught the light

before landing among the grasses

and fallen leaves:

the wood ducks

in the high windows know it all

by heart. Small birds with names

I don’t recall

sound from sycamores

like bells.

       And none of this depends

on me, though I see now that somehow

I depend on it—the river, the stooped

heron and the one rising on great wings

above its reflection, the Yokuts family

at home here

in the ouzel’s inner eyelid,

the wood ducks with their deep

memories

and the small birds

with their bells—

         you and I depend

on this whether or not we’ve ever

darkened the slim doorway,

lifted the latch that’s everywhere.

__________________________________________________________

Catherine Abbey Hodges is the author of the poetry collections Raft of Days (Gunpowder Press 2017) and Instead of Sadness (Gunpowder Press 2015), selected by Dan Gerber as winner of the Barry Spacks Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared widely and been featured on The Writer’s Almanac and Verse Daily. Catherine teaches English at Porterville College in California’s San Joaquin Valley, where she was named 2017 Faculty of the Year. She co-coordinates California Poets in the Schools for Tulare County and collaborates with her husband, musician Rob Hodges.

by Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen

Crow’s feet. Pointing

in directions taken. All wrong.

Spring fling melted

into a slow summer tango—

a liminal romance &

you offer me ways to live:

creams and vapors,

a softer place to lay.

And as we entwine, cradled

like crabs, limbs clutching

the cardio echo of the other,

I ask if you might be kept.

And rocking, breast against breast

you confess your fear of cages.

I toy with thoughts in an adjacent room;

you are a better hostess than I,

admiring self-reflection in tall grasses,

the dandelions gone to seed,

insects, a surrounding conundrum of beauty,

cicada static: variations on a theme &

you emerge. Like a child’s

fascination with what is not within the box—

we pour ourselves into ill-fitting molds

until cracks appear.

Count the futile attempts before the clay holds

true to its design and we discover intent.

Pretense or predisposed,

prepositional and packaged like ladle and broth:

cupped hands and waiting lips

reaching for the reciprocated gift.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen is a poly-artist and humanitarian residing in Utah. Her poetic work has been featured in Quarterly West, Rust+Moth, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, CrabFat, Peculiar: a queer literary journal, and the anthologies Broken Atoms in Our Hands and Dove Song: Heavenly Mother in Mormon Poetry. She blogs sporadically at secondsetofwings.com and provides regular taxi service for her four children.

by Leah Mueller

You’re jealous of everyone,

                even when they’re doing things

                                                you don’t want to do,

                   because they’re not sitting

                                at home, feeling jealous of you.

In photos, everyone poses

                in glittery frames, grinning

                                              into the kaleidoscope.

At home, the dishes pile up

                  in the sink, and creditors

            won’t stop calling.

Don’t you want to jump

               into a car and keep driving,

                                over mountains and rivers

 

all the way across

           the Atlantic, to a place where

                               nobody knows your name?

      Can anyone blame you

                         for trying to disappear?

You finally hear

                 what your voice sounds like,

                       

       strong and quiet as trees.

Then one day, you

           have a sudden urge

                    to switch on the computer,

and the whole goddamn thing

              starts all over again.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

Leah Mueller is the author of two chapbooks and four books. Her most recent book, a memoir entitled Bastard of a Poet, was published in 2018 by Alien Buddha Press. Her work appears in Blunderbuss, The Spectacle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, and many other magazines and anthologies. She was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival, and a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest.

by Grace Gardiner

            after Marty McConnell

 

I hide behind a waterproof shadow

            and red matte lips. You say I can’t hurt,

 

                        though you ignore me on our dead-end street.

            In the tub at home, I scum pink, peel strings

of pus-puckered skin clean off my nail beds.

            I don’t cry. I wait, tuck the bleed under

                        my tongue, clot pain with spit. In your Ford’s

            patinaed backseat I collapsed our altar.

Its centerpiece was me: stripped and naked

            and thin as the skin at the wrist, the back

                        of the knee. I’m not sorry to say the wrong

            words for the right reason: I never wanted you.

There are worse things I could do when leaving

            is not enough, when leaving is still too much.

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Grace Gardiner received her MFA in Writing from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is a former poetry editor for The Greensboro Review. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, burntdistrict, and Mom Egg Review. She’s currently pursuing her PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Missouri, Columbia, where she lives with her partner, the poet Eric Morris-Pusey, and one too many brown recluses.