Home Poetry

Sweet Thing

By Carolyn Adams


She was a tall, slender girl,
pretty, gamine as a deer.

One day, after gym, she showed
me her twin.  A tiny ceramic doe
cradled in cotton,
in a pink paper box.
She’d taken it from a store.

She tenderly moved the wrap,
whispering that
she’d named it Sweet Thing.

She treasured this stolen thing.
I worried, certain
someone would find us.
But she loved it so.
And she shared it with me.
I never knew that contraband
could be so adored.

That was the first time
I learned that theft
could equal love.


Night Work


Carry me off to bed,
lay me down gently.
I’ll drift in soft cotton
on a warm night sea
until I slam the bulkhead.

I’ll find myself
in the abandoned house,
the empty store,
the wretched schoolyard.
There’ll be a predator
with a dagger smile,
its breath hot on my throat.
It will turn and fix its eyes
on me.  And I’ll run.

Or there’ll be a man I can’t
get rid of.  He’ll ford the
windowsill, wade through
the front door.
He’ll demand my bed,
sex, a place at the table.
I’ll know his name.
I’ll half-recognize him.

There’ll be more
I won’t understand.

It will take all night, but
I’ll do the work.
The work that gets
me out of here.


The Map Dream


I trace the shape of continents,
marking cities with pins,
seas with fingertips.

And then I’m swimming
in one of the oceans
I’ve recently named.

The water is warm,
the sun is kind.
But I’m afraid
of what lurks just under.

There’s an island nearby
and that’s
what I’m aiming for.

I pull out the map to chart
a course.  But my destination’s
lost in a deep fold
of the ancient paper,
it’s getting wet.

And something’s disturbed
in the water.


BIO

Carolyn Adams’ poetry and art appear in Amsterdam Quarterly, Blue Collar Review, and 1870 Poetry, et al. She has authored four chapbooks, and has been nominated for a Pushcart prize and Best of the Net. A staff editor for Mojave River Review, she is also a poetry editor for VoiceCatcher.



she wears chaos like Dior

by Elizabeth Train-Brown


I’ve got my hands all over her
in the train toilet
en route to Manchester Piccadilly
and she’s alive like static
under my fingers
whispering in tongues
gulping down the sweat in the air.

when we set off the fireworks
by Lancaster canal
she ground her thumb into gunpowder
painted it on her cheeks,
her white moth eyes
chasing the Catherine wheels
spinning under the bridge on the M55.

she pulled me onto the 23:33 from Preston
with a hand around the back of my neck
told me,
I might not ruin your life
but you’ll excuse me if I certainly try.


you


we were walking back from theirs
butterflies in our bellies
(that might’ve just been the vodka red bulls)
and my feet were singing on the air
because I could still taste his lips on mine
could still feel his hands on my hips
fingers dancing through my hair.

we were walking back home
in the rain in the dark
and I sat down in the road

to break.

the others watched me
crumble on wet tarmac
tear the air apart
chest heaving
shaking

eyes burning

they’ve never seen destruction
quite like this
never knew sobs could rip the night sky
curdle the stars
spill into the street like oil in a storm

and they don’t know
why I keep whispering your name

they don’t know
because I’m 150 miles away
from where you died
and no one here
pours an extra vodka red bull
and leaves it untouched on the table.


gentlemen,


see before you,
an hysteric.
call me Blanche
call me mum
call me the name
of your first lover
it doesn’t matter
because I will be
the thing you dream
of tonight.
I am the future
the night
the darkest
of your delights
and tomorrow
you won’t remember
the colour of my
eyes.


I buried my heart at a crossroad


you have her eyes
(Hecate’s)
like wine
like chaos.
you probably have her mouth
too
but I can’t concentrate
long enough
when you start giggling
against my collarbone –
all I can think of
is how your breath feels
skating over my chest
as you tell me about
how sirens spring
from the women
who throw themselves
off cliffs
how vampires are the women
who drink blood
between the legs of
lovers.



BIO

Elizabeth Train-Brown (she/they) is a circus performer and award-winning journalist, studying Creative Writing at Lancaster University. She is Poetry & Prose Editor for TL Publishing, Developmental Editor for Flash Literary Journal, Poetry Reader at Bandit Fiction, and Poetry Staff Writer at Saturdaze Magazine. She won the 2020 Literary Lancashire Award, came highly commended in the 2021 Erbacce Prize, listed under Best Submissions in the 2021 SLF Young Poets Prize, and has been published over 30 times. She can be found online at bethtrainbrown.journoportfolio.com and instagram.com/choo_choo42.

413B

By J.R. Solonche


Options presented.
Benefits and risks
of each explained.

Simply as possible.
Layman’s language.
Doctors’ baby talk.

Diagrams on yellow
legal pad, shadowed
by diagrams in air.

Now I am alone for
two days to figure
out the best way out.

Had they only come
with three straws,
two long, one short.

I look at the pad.
I look at the hasty
oval of heart, at

the arrow arteries,
at pain’s thick mark.
Statistical probability.

X Y Z prophecy for me.
So for two days
I sit by the window above

Seventh Avenue to scan
the sky for flights
of sparrows. To wait

for a cloud shaped
like a helmeted woman.
To stare at the ceiling

tiles and the fly that
must settle on the tile
with the stain. To listen

for nine rings on the nurses’
station telephone. For a
coincidence of coughs

in the corridor. To watch
for the sign in the dream
I will for two nights dream,

above the door of my wife,
that will sing in neon:
“Enter – This Way Life.”


A DIALOGUE


The one says:
I did not know what you knew.

The other says:
What I know I know because of you.

The one says:
Suddenly it has grown cold.

The other says:
What should I remember about you?

The one says:
Nothing has changed.

The other says:
Once you were larger than life.
Now you are loose change in the pocket of my heart.

The one says:
The future had your profile.

The other says:
I will save us.

The one says:
I have already saved us.


BANKS


In the Chase Manhattan Bank branch
on the corner of 235th Street
and Johnson Avenue, I have changed
my mind about banks. I never used
to like banks. I despised banks. Now
I like banks. I like standing in the cool
lobbies of banks. I like the brass stanchions
and the velvet ropes that are swagged
between them that you must follow
to the tellers’ windows, as though through
a maze. I like the ballpoint pens chained
to the counters where you fill out deposit
slips and withdrawal slips. I like the blue
deposit slips and the pink withdrawal slips.
I like the look on the faces of the tellers,
especially when there are many customers
waiting. They are the concentrated faces
of efficiency. I like to say something
pleasant and polite and civil to the tellers
when it is my turn at the window.
Their gratitude is palpable. It shows on
their efficient faces, and I like that.
I like being a number. I like being several
numbers. I never thought I’d like being
a number, but I do. I like being a number
and a face without a name. It is such
a pleasure not having a name for a little
while during the day. How tiring it is
to answer to a name all the time. I like
the air-conditioned, clean smell of banks.
I like the brand new bills they give me.
I like the way they smell and feel and look.
They remind me of the brand new
books they gave me in school, that I was
the first to use. I like the word. I like
the sound of the word “bank.” It’s the sound
the vault makes when it’s shut and locked.
I like to look at the big vault door. I like
the shiny brushed steel of it. I like
the solidity of it, the indestructibility.
I like the enormous tumblers of the locks.
I like the timing mechanism in its glass
case. I like the handle, big as the handle
on the air-lock of a submarine. The door
looks strong enough to keep out death,
master-thief, genius of safe-crackers.
I do not like death.



BIO

Professor Emeritus of English at SUNY Orange, J.R. Solonche has published poetry in more than 400 magazines, journals, and anthologies since the early ’70s. He is the author of Beautiful Day (Deerbrook Editions), Won’t Be Long (Deerbrook Editions), Heart’s Content (Five Oaks Press), Invisible (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Five Oaks Press), The Black Birch (Kelsay Books), I, Emily Dickinson & Other Found Poems (Deerbrook Editions), In Short Order (Kelsay Books), Tomorrow, Today and Yesterday (Deerbrook Editions), True Enough  (Dos Madres Press), The Jewish Dancing Master (Ravenna Press), If You Should See Me Walking on the Road (Kelsay Books), In a Public Place (Dos Madres Press), To Say the Least (Dos Madres Press), The Time of Your Life (Adelaide Books), The Porch Poems (Deerbrook Editions , 2020 Shelf Unbound Notable Indie Book), Enjoy Yourself  (Serving House Books), Piano Music (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize by Serving House Books), For All I Know (Kelsay Books), A Guide of the Perplexed (Serving House Books), The Moon Is the Capital of the World (WordTech Communications), Years Later (Adelaide Books), The Dust (Dos Madres Press), Selected Poems 2002-2021 (nominated for the National Book Award by Serving House Books),and coauthor with his wife Joan I. Siegel of Peach Girl:Poems for a Chinese Daughter (Grayson Books). He lives in the Hudson Valley.

Blurry

By James Croal Jackson


Home is a little bit blurry.
Mom, I swear to you, it might not be
July next time I see you.

Your digital face is a little bit blurry,
but our lighthouse will always be
the one light in dark through memory,

right? I want to climb the ladder
to surveil the roof. Home has
become a wall of atrophied faces.


Near-Collisions


I have driven along red sand roads
knowing my speed uncontainable,
locked eyes with oncoming traffic
on drugs and drink. Death wants
to always remind me how close
we often get, that sometimes
he’s a blur rushing toward me,
and I must know to swerve.


Gummies


Stress-eating sour worms
while working from home.
A dumb numbness. Live
a weekend for a little
joy. A stressed syll-
able. A stretched neon
bleeding the pumps
from my heart, my long
and yellow heart, crusted
from swallowing earth’s
bitter notes back. I used
to take outside for granted.


You Want Positivity? Here’s Some Positivity


The sun shines on my goddamn sunflower teeth.
Thankful my dental appointment was rescheduled

to an indeterminate point for future me (who is
that crooked reflection in the mirror? Relieved

to see bad posture alive and well) to compensate
for. When I graduated college, I fell in love

at the slightest touch– autumn leaves floating
in a pond, the draft of winter wind through

the window. Now I’m older and more ragged
(the other day I tossed a rug with a painting

of a lion so I could replace it with speckled
blue) and, certainly, with so much heat death

to look forward to.


Noodles


tin colander holes  parts of me peeking
out into the kitchen horizon    past the stove
which so very recently burned blue &
contained above potentially dangerous
gas    of which you were in control
unlike last night you did the right
thing  begging cathy not to drive
home   her slurring sentences
& drunken desperation   just
hours before  all three of us
together   I had to walk home
after downing Nosferatus
and you were there with her
drinking tequila when you called
to say now I really
have to say goodbye
but everything was fine you
arrived at your destination
but she wanted to
drive again the night
air thin
& shivering &
blue when she
departed



BIO

James Croal Jackson (he/him) is a Filipino-American poet who works in film production. He has two chapbooks, Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, August 2021) and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017). He edits The Mantle Poetry from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (jamescroaljackson.com)


A Rage Against My Machines

By Torri Hammonds


I am convinced that I’m a walking Y2K bug.
That isn’t some delusion that puts me
  in the center of the universe;
If it requires electricity it has burst
  into figurative flames.
I’ve watched so many a computer succumb
  to the Blue Screen of Death,
that it no longer frightens me.

My coffee maker frequently stops doing the thing
  it is specifically made to do.
I’ve had cell phones that couldn’t hold phone calls
  if they weren’t plugged into walls.
My laptop burns the top of my lap.

I live an analogous life
  with my French press coffee,
and my cell phones, reduced
  to landlines.
I am bound to my desk with wires.

Each day is a new battle with a device
  that is supposed to make my life easier.
I am throwing up the white flag.
I am resigning myself to a life
  of slight inconvenience.


Tumult


Splash me with your
  sound waves.
Wrap me in your acoustic arms
  and rock me to sleep.
Reverberate so I can use
  my echolocation
to navigate this life.
Do you realize that we
  are on the same wavelength?
These sonic sensations
  sustain us.



BIO

Torri Hammonds is a currently a student at Columbus State Community College, on the long road to getting her Master’s in Library Science. Her best writing ideas come to her during moments of procrastination and when she has had too much caffeine. Her work has previously appeared in A Celebration of Young Poets. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her boyfriend and their cat.


Dust Bowl Venus by Stella Beratlis

Reviewed by Linda Scheller

California’s Central Valley is a 450-mile-long stretch of rich soil irrigated by an extensive system of canals. This extraordinarily productive region abounds in fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, and poets. The hot sun and wide sky have nurtured many noteworthy poets, including Philip Levine, Mai Der Vang, and Juan Felipe Herrera. Another is Modesto Poet Laureate Emeritus Stella Beratlis. Dust Bowl Venus, her new book from Sixteen Rivers Press, is poetry of place grounded in the Central Valley city of Modesto.

During the Great Depression, thousands of people displaced by drought and poverty made their way to California. One of them was Hazel Houser, a migrant from Oklahoma who settled in Modesto and became a prolific songwriter of gospel and country hits. She is the muse of Dust Bowl Venus, memorialized by Beratlis in poems exploring their shared passions and common struggles.

Beratlis writes about desire, folly, and reverence in stanzas that juxtapose incantatory fervor with plainspoken determination, as these lines from “We Write Songs in His Rent Controlled Apartment” illustrate:

                        I beseech thee, stainless quivering leg of bone and ligament,
            allow me to finish the entire song. I’m no lead guitarist.
                        Is the song better served by a sharp tidy solo
            or the Janus tremolo of pure feeling? I wonder.
                        Do not counter with what is known. Fingerpick the hell out of
            these strings, in this small apartment with its brief luxuries
                        and cigarette smoke.

Many of the poems make reference to ligaments, bone, and the heart, most poignantly when the speaker reflects on her daughter’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” lays bare the terror felt by a mother shown the image of a tumor lodged in her daughter’s chest. “Castle of the Mountain” brings the reader chairside to behold the bag of bright red chemotherapy drug and hear the tick and beep of the infusion machine. Bertatlis depicts a mother’s anguish, endurance, and tentative faith with sensitivity and precision.

Dust Bowl Venus is replete with love and its flip side, loss. “All About Birds: An Elegy” is dedicated to the assassinated Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi. As in many of her poems, Beratlis here employs questions and anaphora to powerful effect, emphasizing the grief of the beloved survivor:

                        Which galaxy

            contains you now? Which bird’s throat?
                        In the pines,
            the wind swept through the thicket, and I saw.

                        I saw.

But not all is gloom in this collection. Beratlis plays with language in asides contained within dashes like a hand slyly screening the speaker’s mouth, “et cetera” waving away a rueful reflection, and parentheses cupping a muttered justification. Numerous poems apostrophize with “O,” and sometimes “Oh” precedes a thought like a sigh. Archaisms such as “whence,” “woe be unto us,” and “thou” echo the King James Bible that Houser, a minister’s daughter, transposed into gospel hits. Simultaneously, the occasional “goddamn” or “busting” keeps the reader in the rough and tumble West. This excerpt from “Conversation with a Lover About the Louvins” exemplifies the poet’s whimsical word play:

                        First,
            step down into street; in darkness delight. Next,
            rye paired with pear, the pair pared

            to leather, bluejean and thigh. Hazel’s rules
            for songwriting: Dip from the deeper well. Well, we are.

Intimacy and distance are balanced by scientific allusions interfused with the human condition in references to physics, botany, astronomy, and geology. The long poem “water wealth contentment health” alone contains “neurotransmitters,” “epigenetics,” “atmospheric river,” “genomes,” “fractal,” and “gut-brain.” These notes of erudition embellish poems that prove both emotionally and intellectually satisfying.

Affectionate address—“my love,” “my dear,” “my citadel fortress”—connects the speaker with people and things that inspire joy and spark recognition. A tribute to Modesto, “Republic of Tenderness and Bread” marvels at the community’s kindness. Even poems of disappointment and heartbreak hold commendable grace as in “Fracture Mechanics” and “Instant Messaging with Broken Glass” which invoke hard-earned wisdom with dry humor and a shrug of resignation.

Throughout Dust Bowl Venus, music conveys wonder, vulnerability, and revelation. As well as Houser’s gospel harmonies and rhythm guitar, the poems evoke Paganini, reggae, assouf and corridos, blues, punk rock, and christos anesti sung by the speaker’s Greek family in a Livermore cemetery. Beratlis composes verbal music by means of repeated sounds and careful rhythms, with phrases that cycle back like the chorus of a song, and in the counterpoint of silence. Her judicious use of spacing and punctuation control the tempo to compelling effect. These lines from the poem “How to Possibly Find Something or Someone By Praying” demonstrate the poet’s understanding of the power inherent in end stop and enjambment:

            I’m a typewriter wreck on the highway;
            don’t look at me.
            You are throwing your voice
            into every corner as I hunt and peck
            the light fantastic.

            A neon Lucky Strike sign, vintage automobiles, and other carefully chosen objects conjure the zeitgeist of Houser’s Modesto. “Historic Structure Report” tenderly addresses a specific building downtown—“Hush, my monolith”—and describes its architecture in detail:

            The asparagus fern of commerce
            overspills your planters,
            thrives along your bones,
            while inside, borrowed-money ball gowns
            and loggia daydreams consider a dance. Your glass,
            columns, composite floors, and floral-stamped metal—
            those vertical striations raked in cement—
            all expressions of a certain mid-century mindset.

Dust Bowl Venus is the cartography of two lives. Led to the canneries and dance halls of the “beloved city” familiar to both Houser and Beratlis, the reader is urged to observe, consider, and cherish people and places. In “All About Birds: An Elegy,” the speaker counsels:

                                    Remember to etch images
                        and locations into your mind—
            this poem is a memory palace:

In a region of relentless heat and meager precipitation, nonetheless, plants, people, and poetry can and do flourish. In Dust Bowl Venus, Stella Beratlis maps one Central Valley city and the intricate traces of the heart.

Sixteen Rivers Press        ISBN 978-1-939639-25-7      
$16.00       Paperback       80 pgs.      https://sixteenrivers.org/order/



BIO

Linda Scheller is the author of Fierce Light from FutureCycle Press. Her writing prizes include the 2020 Catherine Cushman Leach Poetry Award and 2021 California Federation of Chaparral Poets Contest. Her book reviews and poetry recently appeared in Entropy, The Inflectionist Review, Oddville Press, West Trade Review, and The American Journal of Poetry. 



Cassandra

By Matt Zachary

We were warned
more than once
and refused to listen
because the right answers
are the ones we want to hear.

No one wants warnings
when the sun is bright
and the money’s rolling in.


Learning to Live with Germs Again


At some point I will
offer you a sip of my drink
and you will accept
and our lips will, indirectly,
touch again, as they used to.

At some point our hands
will touch, intentionally,
or not. Our breaths will
mingle. Our flora and fauna
will meet, perhaps exchange.

And at that point someone
will catch someone else’s cold.


A Prayer against Plague


May the sun bring some salvation.
May light and heat burn without burning.
May lungs fill with nothing but breath.



BIO

Matt Zachary is a teaching assistant with literary aspirations. He is currently working on his first novel.




Sonnet

by Mark DuCharme


Who dreams about my arms in damaged youth?
Who knows the finite ways to make love breathe?
Who flaunts me with mournful saints?
Who prolongs absence in the eyes of past listeners?
Whose tongues know love’s brutality?
What liars are rampant as drowsy parishioners?
Who feeds upon the dust?
Who wanders bent with children’s dreams?
Who devours but cannot rust?
Who is mild with waking screams?
Who showers but can’t think on Sundays?
Toward whom do all misshapen women thrust?
Who is a varied eavesdropper, & who a skillful lunchroom attendant?
Who courses through all broken calm, then flees with bottled rain?


Policed Lines


Somewhere, I am
Someone else

Free when the ink dries

Impossible in summer rains

+

The trouble with
Leaving
Troubles the fact—

A dish in a laundry basket—

The tune went astray

+

If I’d known you before
I was inside myself
Then we could think about tomorrow

& The birds that held you
In the textures of shimmers

You who would squander
The gleam in lost
Children’s eyes—

Those who smoke
Inconsolably
Just outside the rain


After Bergman


The camera loses patience
It’s alright, what you scribble
But don’t soon come again
In a casket too stylized for whispers

If only you’d held out your hand
Or not quibbled with the maidservants
About a death you’d soon long for
As seasons draw past

Bearing monuments that cluster
With a kind of fine agony—
Could you phrase that question in another
Language? Or is it time now for you to

Return to that great city, where angels & clouds
Weep— & the moment
Of reckoning rushes
Ever immanent, ever at hand?



To Him Who Hadn’t
Got That Message

The markings of history
Are all fed back to us
Even in times of decay

Light is a perfect symbol
Of light

If you go away now
Everyone will understand
Until a little bit later

When the glamour of birth
Is through with you

Go easy
On the rains that fail
Dumbfounded lost city eyes

Wear grief
Like an entertainment
Instead of a disguise

Until you are almost
Alone & free

Of those who think of
Breath as mirth

There will come a time

When your cough
In death
Sustains



BIO

Mark DuCharme is the author of We, the Monstrous: Script for an Unrealizable Film, Counter Fluencies 1-20, The Unfinished: Books I-VI, Answer, The Sensory Cabinet and other works. His poetry has appeared widely in such venues as BlazeVOX, Caliban Online, Colorado Review, Eratio, First Intensity, Indefinite Space, New American Writing, Noon, Otoliths, Shiny, Talisman, Unlikely Stories, Word/for Word, and Poetics for the More-Than-Human World: An Anthology of Poetry and Commentary. A recipient of the Neodata Endowment in Literature and the Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry, he lives in Boulder, Colorado.

Hear You Knocking

by Nicholas Karavatos


how far out I lie I speak
from between my lines

a barrier to myself
displaying a division

concealing a presence spoken into
a coffee before dawn a donut shop

another body not mine where you left me an
embodied concentrate of encamped identities

a reading list of current titles
that like I have been shelved.

you stole my body
                               even if I gave it
even if I’d given it
                               you stole my body

a line of blood in sand
a man between asleep

the permeable body is the first and last line in space every
body a frontier every body a horizon a line around a globe.

you made me a silhouette
I speak from the outline

my penetrable mind is dark to itself
is a shadow that deflates my oily hair.


Extraction Economies


That rattle in the mandarin is the bounce of fused
sectionalism under my skin. Almond oil milks my

nutteries. Artisanal meads and scented barley waters are
customary refreshments. A tribe without a flame is not a
                                           tribe.

All about me cannot last long. Gone from the picture, a played-out
character I can’t get out of. Sabotage is subtle. Inaction is conflict.

My nails grow quickly and are strong. I claw at my clothing.
Improperly wiped lenses issue attitudes on sight. These times

are smudges and smears on Time as honeybees make medicine in
Yemen and baskets of honeycombs sit high in Ethiopian trees. Bees’

honey and culinary oils are American skullduggery. My unionist oath
of outer citizenship accounts for my exclusive tastes for inner secession.

I shield my eyewear from the summertime
flash-bang. My caramelized onion head is

split like a ripe melon on a beach. Visions
of the future of the galaxy as a fruit salad.


Scent of Celery


Because
the women
said so. Because
the men said so.

Pointedly, he’s a besider; he’s a pathetic prospect of
a hashtag campaign in his bursted languages. He has

yet
   to.

Become no one. Done what. Too late another. Days too late. Never had an
office job or maybe did. Which one of him would be a liberated one of them?

He could’ve contended to become a fiber in the fabric
if he’d perspired through the static fantasy to its end.

Egregiously erogenous, the nonviolent hilarity of
an apocalypse could be fun if getting pantsed by

the Almighty were not violent harassment.

Venturing into holiday homecomings remind him he is the prey
and not the boast of a younger man’s ambitions. He could not

become The Cause so is half remembered on each return home.
As his accumulating subtractions space out, he wishes he could

laugh off the pieces. So, over breakfast
he chuckles a fruit frost as flakey as his

oblong orbits. He is lost to hers.
No tender for mutual cultivation

he mulches his onerous bends of space. Despite shapeliness
to their eccentricities, a figure of speech is not his last word.



BIO

NICHOLAS KARAVATOS is an assistant professor of poetics at the Arab American University of Palestine near Jenin in the West Bank. He was a U.S. Ambassador’s Distinguished Scholar to Ethiopia in 2018 at Bahir Dar University, and from 2006 through 2017, an assistant professor of creative writing at The American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. At the Modern College of Business and Science in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman from 2001 through 2006, he was a senior lecturer in humanities. His first year as an expat worker was on the faculty of the Fujairah Technical School in the UAE from 2000 to 2001. Nicholas Karavatos is a graduate of Humboldt State University in Arcata and New College of California in San Francisco.

The three poems published here are from his manuscript, Colony Collapse. Two poems from this manuscript and an interview with the author are at the Cathexis Northwest Press website. Of his full-length poetry book No Asylum (Amendment Nine, 2009), David Meltzer writes: “Nicholas Karavatos is a poet of great range and clarity. This book is an amazing collectanea of smart sharp political poetry in tandem with astute and tender love lyrics. All of it voiced with an impressive singularity.”

Catch and Release

by Hana Jabr

To Jeff Metcalf

Last night I was a fish
in some river
I’ve never known.
The water tasted of moss

                                                          and the earthy mineral of smooth pebbles.
I glided and sliced
my way to the almost shore
where you stood in waders
water to your knees
waiting with your family.
A line of them
laughing
pretending you weren’t gone.

                                                         Would you catch me this time?
                                                         Raise me into the air                                      
                                                         mark me as a trophy?
                                                         Suddenly too many to count, we gulped the river and impatiently
                                             waited our turn
                                                                          trusting you saw us all                                                                                            our fins and gills                                                                                                                                      every last scale.

The sun dunked into the horizon
a biscuit breaking
the surface of a
lukewarm cup of tea.
All around me the river
tucked itself in for the night

and you disappeared into some
                                                                         murky forever.


Assessing the Damage


Exterior signs of earthquake damage include:
Continuous cracks horizontal cracks vertical cracks diagonal cracks foundational cracks stair
                  step cracks
Walk stairs carefully to check for a change in stability.
There’s a crack in the sidewalk
that wasn’t there before.
Inspect carefully
ceiling joints and floor registers. Are they loose, shifting, leaning, settling?
The crack in the ceiling still stretches when the house yawns
before or after a deafening stillness.
I can’t remember which.
But it’s centered.
Check if the windows and doors open with more than normal resistance.
What is normal resistance?
Be on the lookout for cracked or missing glass signs of water damage unusual debris shifting
                  gaps along cabinets.
Remember the tenderness of wind before?
Feel for drafts along the walls
inspect vertical mid-span rafter supports. Are they leaning, are they twisting?
Remember pictures clinging to walls?

Does the paint stare vacuous expressionless as if daring you to pack and leave
the shell of this home
                  behind?


No Relation

To Amy Cooper

The birds took flight when he bounded over
and the wind in the trees will bear witness.
Do you feel threatened now?
You think distance is just space that saves us
from restraint?
You are wound tightly around fear’s finger.
Your voice shivers behind a mask that hardly hides
hate as you bind him, winding the leash
until he cries
“I can’t breathe.”
He’s winded but your wounded pride fuels you
to hold him down, bound to the watchful ground
with non-deadly force.
Do you still feel threatened now?



BIO

Hana Jabr writes and teaches in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her chapbook Translation won the 2012 Salt Lake Community College Press chapbook competition and was published in an edition of 250 copies. Her writing has been published or is forthcoming in The Start Literary Journal, Mapping SLC, and Thimble Literary Magazine. Hana is currently earning her MA in literature from Weber State University. When she isn’t working, Hana enjoys riding her horse, reading tarot cards, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.

WALKING OUT

by R.T. Castleberry


Clouded spring,
I slip on twice-worn jeans,
high top Chucks, ironic uniform shirt.
Mingled musk of hibachi barbecue,
wheat beer, Marlboro lights
press balcony and stairs.
Leveling whine of a service dog,
twist of a Piaggio scooter
disturb the courtyard.
Stepping to the sidewalk,
a rushing whistle warns as
downtown rail lights a lane of
oak limb overhang,
painted chains and guard posts.
Open hours, no work for the week,
I take the liquor store sip.
Walking to the car, I weave
across root crack sidewalk,
stretch a weary, shaking hand
to drop spare coins into a beggar’s palm.
Blood shadow darkness carves
a high-rise Southern horizon.
Tension seals the day.


THE SEASON WE KNEW SICKNESS


In the spring, we reap a smaller harvest,
roast pigs on empty playing fields.
We read from the plague Bible,
clean gutters with firebomb and bone.

The ring hangs loose on the lover’s hand,
ribbon twisted tight on a supplicant wrist.
Winter scars seal on sunlit skin.
The plague summons is absent cause or penalty.

The chase continues in rain, a gritted fog.
Mastiffs scatter suspects across the hills.
No harm, little charm in the plague roses.
They grow gruesome along forest battle trails.

We cross the headwaters of the plague river,
drink as anointed, drained of spite.
Take the bridge. Take a ferry.
We’ll scrape the caves of lamentations.


AS SHE TALKS ME OUT OF FALLING IN LOVE


A drink at The Zero mixes strong.
Shots spill the rim,
cocktails served brimful and burning.
Scent of lime slice, mint sweetly crushed
hovers in the smoke.
Matador and picador swing through,
each precise in his fiesta control.
Coastal painters pull them
to sketch pad, to laptop easel.
Poets sip confessional absinthe,
snipe at journal critique.

At the window tables,
the café blooms like winter lilies.
Tea and tangerines accent each seating.
Lake winds caress the elms.
The random raging wife snares
a carafe of vino tinto, settles
sipping beside the tugboat quay.
Tremulous over lover’s lyrics,
a strolling soprano warns, “Goodbye, I’ve lost.”

Garnet ring gracing clenched fist
my third adultery instructs, “Don’t marry.
Adopt a string of dogs,
the kids and cognac mothers that come with.”
She gifts me her greyhound—tethered,
dozing at the ballroom door.
Living privilege to its conclusion,
she repudiates crowns of iris, rose, camellia;
denies family pressure, ominous marriage.
Despite all balcony lies,
the horoscope years that lay between us,
if she were to ask, I’d embrace
her children fighting on the river,
her children dicing in the desert.


MAYBE YOU’LL STAY LONGER THAN THE HOUR


On mountain rail towards the bay,
I saw deer racing a fire.
Leaping a creek,
they scale a stone path upwards,
dodge through a blue oak border.
I spend a lot of time in Mexico.
I take a hard line and the train when I travel.
An ex-wife, an ex-kid live there January to June.
Leveraged in another time zone,
she lives on sand. She takes a tan all year.
The girl runs the waves, resists no temptation,
raids wallets as damage entitlement.

Spring’s mistress arrives in March,
greets each evening in
hostess silks of Persian rose,
jonquil, malachite.
A month gone, we screw till noon,
brunch over dark rum mimosas.
Late dinner is Black Jack and Coke,
hash the daughter value shops
from the village smuggler.
Beach winds etch the picture window,
waves ever wilder against the breakers.

I read a lot. Things you need,
whether contrary or contradiction:
kindness if possible, otherwise the boot.
The ex writes lyrics she shares to the air,
randomness of rant, specifying nothing.
We gloss the wreckage of marriage memories.
We share a pipe some sunsets, afternoons
walk a musk of sun-warm bodies,
microbrews taken outdoors.

“You express more. I don’t like it,” the girl says.“
As you ask attention,” I tell her, “you get it–
sneer, advice and all.”
Setting sun is a splash on the boardwalk.
She looks away. I walk away,
long neck bottle loose in my hand.
A personal life calls for me.
I’ll sign some checks before
leaving later in the week.


STOLE MY COAT BLUES


Hands on hips,
I stretch legs to scrape
gutter mud from new ropers.
Feeder and offramp back my house.
The sea-sound rush cascades the backyard.
A wheelchair vet nests at the front
blocking the turn lane,
begging in danger for change.
Storm clouds settle to the south,
thunder’s roll an anxiety I accept.
The clock runs out like
train cars down a bayou track,
brother’s sneak through window and wallet.
Nothing remains past
scraps of spite, a cursing conversation.
I finish a cigarette, step to the patio,
flip it arcing, sparking into the grass.



BIO

A Pushcart Prize nominee, R.T. Castleberry is an internationally published poet and critic. He was a co-founder of the Flying Dutchman Writers Troupe, co-editor/publisher of the poetry magazine Curbside Review, an assistant editor for Lily Poetry Review and Ardent. His work has appeared in The Alembic, Blue Collar Review, Misfit, Roanoke Review, Pacific Review, White Wall Review, Silk Road and Trajectory. Internationally, he’s had poetry published in Canada, Great Britain, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand, Portugal, the Philippines and Antarctica. He lives and writes in Houston, Texas.


Tinroad

by Natasha Sharma


a cuckoo sounds, papa
slats between the light
in our tropical room bronze high
’90s fashion pressed
vermillion ink on my fingers a
tingle we’ve entered your childhood
roam rivers seeking seas
on boundaries permanently erased

our high hopes searching
your home half abandoned this century
ago who is left bodies only
innocent we try too hard

it’s lost now concrete
has made the silent vow
strips of green red streamers aloft
the trees outside construction
lingers a thrush pushes out
your now broken lost house
feel your body doing what’s left


middletown swimming


these days, we’ve chosen to be swept under some
imaginary depths of chlorine,
to have the concrete bowl be our bones
my sister and I lay in the empty pool, recall:
her violin my flute store, its strip mall
bankrupt, all the heroes with their golden teeth
and us not guessing, to play later,
notes out as dust motes in this bottom bowl

a wealthy family’s chemicals laden the air,
a leftover blonde’s lock, their painted nail
I’m choking without thinking
I imagine the splashes above me,
the bubbles rising from sinking bodies,
all ghosts of summers shadow over us

police come to hear our skin screeching
against this desperate bowl’s purpleized
mosaic, then, midwestern evening autosphere
lures bronze skies warning vehemently, to run zoom
out past vintage bicycles, broken jockey statues
and grandma’s windcatcher collection bids us chiming goodbyes


succulence


between my legs he tickles me with the calligraphy of a brush
meant for other women in his novel of us that’s not really us
aspiring to something meant for real Indian women, I paint
curry onto my nails wielding them above bubbling pots,
below, a paisley rest on my ankle bruises elephant skin
above it my legs are something for wolf-men to suckle at
it’s waxy between my breasts it’s sticky in his mouth
it’s my grandmother’s recipe


Indiana Desi


Mama has left us for her head, inside it
her purple molten plants bleed untended,
unintended we fled with the broken U-Haul

history will not hope for us
we’re the wrong color brown, saris
torn and bright, discriminate patterns

the cattle have taken our side

our bodies allowed only in the large spaces,
herdable, I hear my stomach bellow
it seems a visitor to this broken space

my people stare out blankly
cowboy laundry hanging beside black pens
cotton hued against my shaking

I forget our color out here, picket fence
imprisoned in our own country
how many chains till we feed together again?


split/marriage: a buoyant miscegenation


black hair-dye splat, bleached skin cream dot
eye me from a rose-colored carpet
miscegenation
a child’s bathroom floor

creeping in my oatmeal bath
brown-itchy bottom buoyant
mommy, when will I be done?
till your skin shrinks/till I can see your bones bleach

six-years-old,
I pretend mermaid
cooking in the oven
iridescent fish turning
pink-red-white

my fingers pinched prunes
her purple knuckles pound
dough sticky roti slabs
sizzle gold spitting oil

now Papa’s eye will turn doorways
her knuckles will snap like chickpeas
while I’m left-behind fishy flakes
a maid rotting in forgotten waters



BIO

Natasha Sharma is a tutor for early and elementary age students in Ohio. Her poems represent growing up in the American Midwest as a first-generation South Asian and touch on mental health issues, trauma, and dreaminess. She holds a Master’s degree in English from Miami University of Ohio and her work can be found in “The Hartskill Review”, “As/Us”, “Better than Starbucks,” and “Fleas on the Dog.”



DELUGE

by John Tustin


It’s beautiful
The sound the water makes
When it funnels out
From the gutters
And into the mud

The rain continues
Unabated
And I sit inside
Dry and warm

Drowning nonetheless
In the deluge
Of my own mind

It makes a noise
That does not
Sound nearly
As beautiful
As the music
The rain
Makes

Splattering the windows
Outside my warren
And unable to touch
The skin
I’m in


GETTING OLD


I wake up too early in the morning
With one less morning remaining
And every stroke of the wind that washes my face
Represents one wish gone unfulfilled.


THERE WAS A MOMENT


There was a moment…
We were in a bar.
You were drunker than me,
As usual when we were both drinking
Even though I would drink more than you…
We were kissing, sitting right by the front door,
We were kissing and I touched you, you
Touched me.
There was a moment
When you told me you had to pee
So I stood up as you stood up
And we were side by side.
I was just a little dizzy,
Perspiring a bit
As you put your hand on the small of my back
And kissed me softly, closing your eyes.
Then you went to the bathroom.
Now your hand is long gone from the small of my back,
Your small kisses lost forever.
There was a moment, though.
Tonight, this moment,
I live it.


UNDRESS


I would live another day to just come home
To you in various states of undress
Just as I would die tonight
To see photographs of you
In various states of undress
Were I to find them
Beneath another man’s
Usurping
Eyelids.


BIO

John Tustin’s poetry has appeared in almost 300 disparate literary journals, online and in print – including Rhino, Bryant Literary Review and Chiron Review – since he began to write again a dozen years ago. http://fritzware.com/johntustinpoetry/ contains links to his published poetry online.

Jupiter

by Jen Knox

Every dream a slip of a thing,
a sojourn into the ordinary, coveted past
until a deep quarantine sleep
pulled Jupiter toward our small Midwestern town.
Every step heavy, I trudged toward it.
The planetary pull, cartoon-like.
Its gravitational force
targeting a particular part of me,
leaving the rest enchanted but confused.
I rolled over to check the news, the charts,
the trends, and I stared out of my window.
As so many of us have. At 5 a.m., I saw Jupiter,
a slip of a thing with Saturn in its gaze.
Surrounded by stars in a sharp, dark morning sky.
And I felt hope.


Wait


The line for irregular, black shirts takes ten minutes. Forty-plus adults take single steps as stomachs hum. Necklines hang like hula-hoops.

At lunch, there is only a half-hour. A half-dozen ham and cheese. Now there’s just cheese. Thirty-plus adults with lettuce and cheese. Blankets are fibrous and prick the skin.

Warm lettuce means peeling wilted green bits off the tongue or swallowing slimy leaves whole. The tinfoil makes a perfect, silver ball. Silver balls are thrown, kicked.

Orange cheese and loose-necked shirts with twelve minutes to spare. Silver balls between blankets are reminiscent of Christmas tree bulbs.

For bus tickets, hands remain in pockets, eyes toward the street. There’s something slippery about mobility, so many remain. Those who stand take single steps. Patient steps.

Twenty-plus remain. Activities remain. Dance last week, art next, poetry this. A young teacher looks as though she is speaking to blind kittens. She closes her eyes and recites poems. She opens them and offers a writing prompt as pens and paper are handed out.

There is nothing to put the paper on. The concrete works best. The pen navigates tiny hills on the page. First come colors: purple, green, silver, and orange. The pen suggests the salty taste of ham that almost graced the tongue that was too many feet from the front of a line.

The pen moves beyond this. The pen moves much faster than the feet.


Imprint


Our shadows introduce themselves
& regulars grumble when a top set of teeth bared,
even though we all know to grab the back legs.

The dogs run in transient packs, as squirrels rustle tree leaves
& fall moves downward on a slow-moving swing.

We kiss the air when it’s time to go.

The world should know we were here, too, but our scents hug tight
& we are left to share words and walkways, to scratch the same furry heads.

The imprint of my shoe finds yours.


Canvas


I was dulled longer than you, so when I lost my sight, I wasn’t shaken.
Glass seals well, blurs lines and clarifies sight, so I wore
a glass dress & glass shoes, until you arrived with science and a string.

I felt the etching of sharp lines and gentle curves, the quiet power
beneath the watery surface & had reason to shatter beneath you. You,
with your collage of circumstance. A papier-mâché from elementary foretold.
A careful collection of porcelain shattered & glued created a map.

You described it all. You told me how, but I still struggled until I realized
the texture had to be rough to be felt, to be interpreted as anything at all.
My fleshy thumbs drag against surfaces, forever searching for the right word.


BIO

Jen Knox is an Ohio-born writer, meditation instructor, and the founder of Unleash Creatives. She is the author of Resolutions: A Family in Stories (AUX Media), After the Gazebo (Rain Mountain Press), which was nominated for the Pen/Faulkner Award, and The Glass City (Prize Americana for Prose winner). Her short work recently won the Flash Fiction Magazine‘s Editor’s Choice Award for 2020 and other writing can be found in The Best Small Fictions (edited by Amy Hempel), The Adirondack Review, Gargoyle Magazine, Little Fictions, Literary Orphans, Lunch Ticket, Poor Claudia, Room Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post. Jen is currently working on her first novel.
Jenknox.com

a homesick poem

by John Sweet

sunlight and crows

a sacrifice

a clenched fist
dripping blood

these are not options,
this is the
proper sequence

we are believers in
the wisdom of ghosts

of fairy tales

we are believers in
a void of
our own making

wealth and
self-righteousness

power from the
end of a barrel

who are you to
criticize
until you’ve taken
your first life?



between defeat and despair


first week of april all brown lawns and
grey sky, threat of snow that
never quite arrives and
what i miss are
leonora’s pale breasts in the mexican sunlight

do you remember 1937?

are we still killing for the
same reasons we were then?

seems like it was all pretty funny until
we realized that everyone
who’d died was someone we’d known



let all sounds be the sound of freedom


these houses and
the spaces between them

these streets all heavy with silence
in the early afternoon

trees and the shadows of trees
and the ghost of de chirico

a kingdom of dust
for the lucky few

can’t be god these days unless you’re
willing to bleed and
maybe that’s how it always was

not every cripple is a prophet

not every prophet understands
the necessity of hope

picture yourself as the desert
and your life
finally starts to make sense



upstate; a surrender


in a fog of numbed-out pain and
                              creeping cold

in a collapsing city in
a dying kingdom

a future built on ruins,
and what is there to say about it?

you’ve wasted your whole life here

taste of guilt mixed with
the texture of ashes, right?

the dead among the living and
                          all of us blind

all of us halfway down the
road to being forgotten

anonymous houses & abandoned factories and
each day shaped by dull light without color

each moment meaningless on its own
and then when added to all the others,
                                     and so breathe

                                       don’t breathe

gotta make a choice
either way

gotta stand up and be counted or
lie down in whatever
shallow grave you’ve dug for yourself

there will always be a despair
greater than your own



this kingdom of rain, these corpses on fire


crows outside the suicide factory,
first light of a dull grey morning

screams and whispers

echoes

there is no future in being holy,
you understand

there is no future at all

the present is always with us, the
past never remembered clearly and when i
tell you i love you it
sounds like an admission of defeat

when i get out of my car, the parking lot
is littered with the bones of angels

the machinery has just begun
to grind into motion

each day starts at zero, and then they
all move backwards from there



everyone i hate, and the reasons why


man with the gun says
there need to be changes,
but he’s just as dead the rest of us

he’s high on the fumes
of burning children

he’s trapped in the shadows
of his father’s fists

a slave and a whore,
but fuck it

no one comes to this town to
live up to their fullest potential

no one talks about better days
until there’s no hope of
them ever arriving

you learn this early, and then
it just seems like something
you’ve always known



st. nicole, lost in the labyrinth


the suicide season again,
and all your fucked up lovers say
it’s the sunlight that ties this noose so tight

they say it’s the fading warmth of
a half-remembered past
that blurs the future to a dirty grey, and
what can you do but agree?

your father never liked you, sure

left nothing but the gift of self-hatred
when he walked away from the burning house

and how many years did you wait
before you went looking for him?

how easy do you think it was
for him to forget your name?

opened the door to his shithole apartment
with shaking hands, with a blank stare,
and told you he’d never had any kids

told you his wife disappeared
back before the war

made you start to doubt you’d
                                     ever been born




BIO

John Sweet sends greetings from the rural wastelands of upstate NY. He is a firm believer in writing as catharsis, and in the continuous search for an unattainable and constantly evolving absolute truth. His latest poetry collections include A DEAD MAN EITHER WAY (2020 Kung Fu Treachery) and No ONE STARVES IN A NATION OF CORPSES (2020 Analog Submission Press).

Do less

by Joy Williams


No one knows how
We got here.

Time lost focus –
A whole day’s worth.

Still, perhaps it’s okay
Sometimes. In fact,

Sometimes we must
Look to the ocean

Nestled comfortably,
Dwelling deep

Even under these constraints.



Poetry is not a luxury

            for Audre Lorde


The quality of light
Has direct bearing
Upon this form

This illumination
Nameless and formless
Births dark within

Hidden and growing
Your beautiful nightmare
Of places within

These places are dark
Are ancient
Have survived

Within each of us
It is dark
It is ancient

We come as
A desperate wish
We come cobbled

By daily lives
Not idle fantasy
The skeleton of lives

The foundation
Of what has been
Neither forever nor instant



Astrology


Who cares if it isn’t
Real. You were born.
You took your first

Breath. No longer
Existing inside
The future, but

Distinct, astrologically
Speaking. The uses
Are vast and varied.

As a mirror offers
Reassurance and
Alchemy, serious

And vaguely silly,
The reality of the sky
Seems its own kind

Of magic. A chance
To see mirrors
Inextricably linked

To other mirrors,
All looking up. But
The sky isn’t enough

If you want to know,
Ultimately, why
Oceans rise, forests burn.



Ritual


If you hate your job.
If you have a job you dislike.
If you have an unpleasant job.
Please consider building a ritual.
You are free to create one
Anywhere, any time.
There is no place and no time
Not possible.

Keep it simple at the start:
Go to the refrigerator.
The possibilities are endless.
Reach for the milk,
The leftovers,
The hovering moth.
Outrun patterns,
Inhale coffee beans.
If the coffee does not work,
Stare straight ahead.
This always works.

Note: It is essential to do this
Sitting. Feet flat, back straight.
Close your eyes fast as you can.
Repeat. When finished,
Repeat once more.




BIO

Since the pandemic struck, Joy Williams has been holed up in her apartment writing and wishing she had a dog.




Overcast

by Gavriel Ross

The generative project forms
Rings, perfect inside
And out. This is where light
Becomes retrospective.
These days propose themselves; body,
Dust, breath. Blue body’s bridge and
The endless setting of things spoken or
Seen near the edge and not abstract
Enough couldn’t make me feel better.
Circle the best selection, omit nothing.



the little things


because little things are so

they wish what they wish

like a button, a grain of
sand, a needle’s eye. they
mention less than a
shadow or a speck of dust

i will wait until later. later

is what there is to do.



Run in Circles, Walk in Lines


Silently slipping from holding
The sun, you stay in river
Islands darker than the clear
Talk that opens mountains,
A string of lumbered ivy.
It’s been forever since I thought of startled light.
Through these thousand heavens, you let down long
Nights of jade wine, and I cannot contain
The concrete favor between our broken line.
September becomes an elegy, crow perched
In pine, on the staircase braids of lace.
The world becomes labored. I let myself out.



Delilah Against the World


More than enough for one
We are goldfish
                         She says a collection
With a strange distance and wants
A confession
                         A commission contained
In prize winning fabric
Her man           The first and only
In English         Is deliverance
And the first prodigal light
Of a son



BIO

Gavriel Ross is poet based in Michigan. He began studying poetry as a teenager and has contributed poems to Ditch Poetry. He was a paramedic for 10 years until he was injured while on duty. He finds that poetry is the most honest and creative way of expressing himself.







Winter fell like a hammer.
Days cut off at the knees.
Was this house always so dark?
Was that tree always so menacing?

The moon is swollen and seeps
into the clouds. A baby howls,
then a dog. Songbirds all gone silent.
What is that rustling in your chest?




It was Thursday when the doors closed
for good. I went home but couldn’t
sleep. Body accustomed to living
by starlight – rising at dusk, sleeping
at dawn. The cats and I keep
the same schedule. Nocturnal,
not lonely. I name the foxes
that shuffle through the garden.




I miss the sound of glasses clinking
in hands, dishwashers. Miss
the steamy windows. The jostling
for space. The smell of old beer
in hair, clothes. Miss
Friday nights and your hands
rolling cigarettes, waiting
for my break.

Now it’s always Monday, always
noon. Now my hands are
the only hands and
everything is already broken. No
cigarettes, just these few
empty rooms and a pair
of ceramic wrens silent
on the bookcase.


BIO

Kate Porter is a full-time bartender and part-time poet. She has been writing for years but has only recently begun submitting work for publication. This is her first publication outside her local paper.

My Red Horse Moves

by Ashley Inguanta


like a fire in the wind.
My hipbone presses to highway,
And I see her, my horse, running
like she’s got everything to lose.

Here, the desert is a pale
wish, as fragile as my horse’s shins, thin
and temporary and unsure of how long
it will last. I fell from a great place
in order to get here: a rooftop
covered in percussion, a stretch
of ragged silver and bone
in the dusk. I orchestrated tremendous
beats–shin to hoof to desert floor.
Our racket lasted for centuries.

It was no different from the way hands
clap or the way a lover may place her
lips to another’s neck. Hunger is hunger
is hunger. Rhythm is nothing but a meeting
and release. We open one door and close
the other. My red horse bolts, a fire
in the wind. Her hoofs beat sky,
then sand. I fall from a place not unlike grace,
but more like perfect joining. My hipbone
presses to highway. A truck drives by,

and I swear, there is a mirror tacked
to its door, and I see myself, and I am
screaming, and then I am laughing
with empty hands. The truck moves
into horizon, becomes a star. Instead of myself,
I see my red horse. We fell from a great place
in order to get here: a rooftop

protecting a home of glory. Not heaven,
but a lady’s house. She played records
and kissed the forever grey sky. She was
the first opening, the first feeling
without word. And no,
her house was no different than
a harvest of stones, hands trying
to make a place. Hunger is hunger
is hunger. We open one door
and close the other. My hipbone

presses to highway, and my red horse
is there, right there, and it happens
so quickly, her body touching the
pavement, like mine.

She stares at me. She’s got everything
to lose. When the land shakes, her shins
become paper. Now, she is a story
that the lady keeps with her, that I pen
one more time, my hipbone becoming
highway now.

I remember walking on a marsh bank


in the pouring rain

A friend walked with me

I was new to the everglades
then, not knowing the given name
of any bird or grass,

but I understood the language
of that rain, holding my body
underneath storm-clouds,

cooling me, cooling us all,

bringing relief


BIO

Ashley Inguanta is a writer, art photographer, installation artist, and holistic educator. In her newest work, The Island, The Mountain, & The Nightblooming Field, she gives readers a chapbook of poetry that thrives in its simplicity. You can take your copy home through ashleyinguanta.net

Photo by Tina Russell

STAY IN TOUCH