issue 15 · spring 2020
Social distancing is a new literature, a bitter cup of surveillance and incompetence that asks us to accept our ruin with equanimity. We quarantine ourselves with tigers and exotica, with mean-spirited declarations of better days ahead, with books, even if the “books frighted them terribly.” ¹ Who will pay this bill of masks and ventilators and food gone off? Who will free us to become nomads once again, a notebook in our pocket, “forever naming the contents of (our) territory, it is impossible (we) will not become a poet.” ²
¹ Daniel Defoe · *A Journal of the Plague Year*
² Bruce Chatwin · *The Songlines*
Table of Contents
SUNDAY · EDWARD LEE
The slow rise of the sun
tells me this is going to be
a slow day, a day when
I need not rise
until my back aches
against the old springs
of the knowing bed,
and my first sip of caffeine
will be taken
under the too big tree
in the too small back garden,
the freshly delivered papers fanned
across the patio table,
waiting to be read
whenever I gather my mind
to set their temporary tattooed knowledge free,
or maybe whatever book
I’m pretending to absorb
will be finished, or
a new one better suited
to my stunted concentration begun,
while undemanding music plays
from the kitchen radio
which belonged to your father
decades before our first kiss,
and I force myself to imagine
as we once imagined
that a day like this
need never end,
until it does, gently,
with dinner and glass of wine
or two, while the ghost of you
sits across from me
smiling that smile
you smiled when the doctors told us
you had so few Sundays left
and we should
live them however we wished.
LAKE-EFFECT · SETH JANI
When the snow hits
not even a god
can save the city,
ignite a guiding radiance.
Doors disappear, houses,
the purpose of eyes.
Only a chill, deep in the materials,
survives. A witnessing sense
that resembles a bare flame,
a conscious bone,
a ghost that looks out
and falls in love
with the erasable world
because it too is made
from tiny fractals,
freezing bits of light.
PORT HURON · GLORIA MONAGHAN
On the long sand shore of Lake Michigan
in the fat maple trees and thin pine
a song far off within the wood
water and wind.
A black-haired Leshy sings on the rocks
small stories under low clouds
her white arms sway
mermaid on a black rock
alone and free.
She dances on the sand
green barnacles cling to black
and the seaweed is lost memory.
SPATTERDOCK SONG · GLORIA MONAGHAN
(From 1822–1883, Francis Buchanan White collected several different species during the Challenger Expedition. Water spiders, water striders, water bugs, pond skaters, and water skippers [or Jesus bugs] belong to the class of true bugs, the Gerridae.)
Near the small brown creek
water spiders jump from yellow water lilies,
their songs impossible to hear,
except for the slumbering bottom fish beneath
that interpret within dreams of mud and rust
moving to a slow rhythm current out of pipes,
whiskered and black, swimming beneath the quick
impermanent large-eyed diving bell silver spider
jumping from one green leaf to another.
By the edge of the water I follow your journey,
silent wish even through the culverts
eventually leaving, walking back up
to the cottage camp for girls
without windows, doors, or gates.
Dreaming of the buddy system in Port Huron and the shoreline,
water spiders jumping on the lily pads, creek dirt, fern,
with Camille in the tunnels that go between the creeks.
The sea glass glitters in the sand;
brown, green, white, and sometimes blue.
The rocks are mothers crying for their lost sons,
their hair fallen in the waves.
CIELO · SAMUEL SWAUGER
To Cielo Davila
I cry like an airplane, they say,
but I just love to sing. And I smile
at funny faces, and the green ocean.
I wear berets, I write in cursive,
and I love to bite my lip when
I’m thinking about the Greeks.
I’m never ever not thinking.
Someday I might love myself, but
I think I’ll be alone for a bit longer.
EL CONDOR BARANQUILLA · NINA ALONSO
Fernando’s laughing with Marc, his college roommate, while I talk to Olga, Marc’s wife, though her English is bits and pieces and my Spanish is no better. She’s slim, sipping water while we eat lunch, tapping the table with orange nails, designer sunglasses perched on stylish dark hair.
I’m a ballet teacher, ordinary sunglasses, clipped bare nails. Olga reminds me of a teen dancer who refused to brush her teeth with toothpaste because it has calories.
We drive north to Santa Marta, crystal beaches, blue-green waves, luminous clouds, post-card palm trees, silken breeze, nothing like ice-gray Boston this November.
Marc says, “Simon Bolivar’s grave’s nearby, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez was born in Aracataca, nothing much to see.”
Fernando winks at me, as we wouldn’t mind seeing that ‘nothing much,’ but we’re guests, let it go.
At dinner Olga sips broth (avoiding noodles), then we drive south to Cartagena, check into a sea-side hotel and meet artist Alejandro Obregon.
Marc owns one Obregon painting, a thunder-cloud-gray bull, hanging above black chairs with steer horn legs, (real steer-horn), and wants another.
Alejandro’s smile is sleek as he refills our drinks, his blue eyes missing nothing, the mood more playful the drunker we get. When he hears I teach ballet, he pesters me for ‘Dying Swan’ until I ripple my arms and manage a few wine-soaked arabesques.
Olga complains English is “muy dificil,” pushes pasta around her dinner plate, drinks a thimble of wine.
Alejandro’s paintings are grotesque, nothing pretty. Around midnight Marc chooses a wide-winged Andean condor, a species of black vulture, flying through blurry spirals of gloom.
We drive back to Barranquilla on dark, bumpy roads, Marc flicking high beams at trucks speeding by, windshields edged with red fringe, but no headlights. He’s telling Fernando the backstory of Plasticos Caricos, and I’m half-listening, wondering whether steer-horn chairs were some interior decorator’s idea. Marc and Fernando banter back and forth about business, Olga’s dozing.
Reading in bed, I see them on the balcony smoking pot. Later Fernando tells me Marc screws around on business trips, a stewardess here and there, sampling women like amuse-bouches at a buffet. “He’s always been like this, before Olga and after.”
Marc’s handsome as an old-time movie star, reminiscent of the Gatsby elite, tall and lean with a narrow mustache, wealth and privilege palpable in the texture of his clothes, his demeanor. He’ll indulge whenever he wants, no guilt about fucking around. When Olga’s suspicious, he’ll deny accusations, insist she’s imagining things, no sense of wrong-doing, no need to confess or be forgiven.
She’s the daughter of a wealthy family, and their children, a boy of five and a girl of seven, are in school or with nannies. Getting her hair done, choosing nail-polish to match designer sun-glasses, can’t fix a permanent power imbalance.
I teach ballet, study with company teachers and guests from New York, France, and everywhere else. Sometimes a Big Personality arrives to set a ballet, Mr. Famous Russian Artiste, knitted wool cap pulled over his ears, shoves the studio door open, snaps his fingers and an assistant runs to bring a double espresso. There’s gossip about nasty interludes with company men, snippy remarks that he’s past his technical prime, a brief span in the life of any dancer. But he’s Rudy, the idolized Soviet defector, the choreographer, the spotlight super star.
Fernando manages a restaurant and partners in a design company struggling to break even. My dad worked his drug store every day except Sunday afternoon, so I’m uncomfortable in this hacienda with olive-skinned maids, cooks and gardeners, wonder about their lives, but can’t ask. Marc’s father came to South America from Eastern Europe, though nothing in the house signals that he was a Jew who got out, no menorah. Olga was raised Catholic, but no Virgin Mary, no crucifix.
My grandparents survived Kiev pogroms. Cossack brutes broke down my great grandmother’s door though she was in labor Christmas Eve, dragged her bed onto the ice of a frozen river where she died. They wanted to keep a Jew from being born on Christ’s birthday, but did they know Jesus was a Jew?
Somehow newborn Batsheva was rescued, as well as my terrified five year old grandma Bessie, hiding in a cupboard, obeying her mother’s instructions to keep quiet, no matter what she heard. Years later both sisters followed Grandpa Sasha to America. I heard this story at a banquet during a cousin’s baby shower. I was twenty two, newly divorced from a brief blunder marriage.
“My mother – your grandmother – was the five year old in the cupboard listening to her mother scream,” then Aunt Dora shoved her cigarette butt into the pink frosting rose on her cake plate, refilled her wine glass, wouldn’t say another word. Many questions, but no one alive to ask.
Displays of wealth feel wasteful and foolish to me. The night we arrived in Barranquilla needing a shower, the faucets were gold, but dry, and we’re told water flows eight to ten in the morning, that’s it. Our attic flat in Cambridge has an outmoded claw-foot tub, but there’s water. Barranquilla rations every drop, collects rain in storage tanks, builds bridges over streets impassable during rare, torrential, downpours. But Marc and Olga’s walled garden ripples with hibiscus blossoms and orchids, the air moist and heavy. We grow red geraniums in clay pots on our Cambridge back porch.
But at home we can go to the bank. Here Marc changes money for us from his bedroom safe, a huge, tank-like contraption with double-locked steel drawers for passports, currencies, documents and jewelry, insisting that if we go, we’ll be robbed, later drives us to see guards holding automatic weapons at the bank’s front door.
“Not enough guards to protect clueless tourists from drug cartel bandits.” Fernando, born in Argentina, is fluent, but Marc won’t let him go either. “They know who’s local and who’s not, so forget it, you’d be a target.”
I want to open a car window as it’s hot, but Marc says,“Windows stay shut. Thieves steal jewelry.” My watch is cheap, as I’ve traveled enough to know better than to display valuables, but Olga’s wearing two diamond rings and a glitzy gold link bracelet. Marc asserts proudly, “This car has military grade, shatter-proof glass,” confirming Barranquilla as a border-line war zone.
At dinner he says,“The kids want a puppy, but we’d need escort, as bandits kidnap dogs, demand ransom, sometimes kill them, happened to a friend’s Corgi.”
Fernando sees my gloom and changes the subject. “Ever hear from Russ?” No idea where this usually stoned college buddy may be.
Marc says airport security examines shoes because smugglers hollow out heels to hide drugs and emeralds. Everything – suitcases, purses, bodies–will be searched, and this is years before such procedures became routine.
At the airport the guard x-rays trinkets we bought in Cartagena, paws through our luggage, watching to see if we’re nervous, maybe hiding something, finishes digging through and lets us board. Too tense to sleep, I’m dragging by the time we reach Miami and start hiking to the next gate.
Fernando squeezes my hand. “Good to see Marc and Olga, but Colombia’s a fucking mess – bandits, rebel groups, drug cartels. Marc is thinking of buying a condo in Miami and putting money in US banks in case they need to leave. His father sold plastic conduit to anyone with cash, got complicated.”
“Multiple account books, underground network. His mother never knew how her husband was supporting the family. Plasticos Caricos has legitimate clients, but many under the radar. I was seven when Peron’s thugs raided our Buenos Aires publishing company, jailed dad for weeks. Afraid they’d arrest him again, he somehow got us to the UK, then the states. I couldn’t speak English, spent school days playing pick up sticks. Marc’s telling Olga shopping trips will be easier with a condo instead of a hotel, doesn’t want to scare her. But they’ll need permits or visas, not sure this will work.”
“He cares about her, but keeps screwing around?”
“That’s Marc, as long as he can get away with it,” Fernando’s tapping his fingers to thumping airport music.
Overhead fluorescents hurt my eyes, lost my sunglasses somewhere, maybe on the plane. I lean on Fernando’s shoulder, close my eyes but can’t relax, keep seeing guards with machine guns, paintings of bulls and condors, Marc’s Italian leather briefcase, full of secrets.
issue 15 · spring 2020 · page 2
INTERLUDE · KERRY LOUGHMAN
Lily pads bow down in the wake of the heron
quietly fishing the river shallows.
On the footbridge to the art museum
two Japanese tourists pause, and pull
from hidden pockets smartphone cameras
to catch the tilting head, the questing eye.
College boys interrupt their game to watch,
sweaty bluster all stowed, manners ready.
Signs are taken for wonders… Mend me now.
One deft stab, a flip, quick-silver fish slips
down the uncompromising throat.
A moment’s hunger sated, the hunter
goes alone fragmenting our attention,
webbed feet breaking plates on jade water.
DIFFICULT TO CURE · ROBERT BEVERIDGE
an old girlfriend sits next to me
at Walsh’s, the stretch of bar
farthest from the door, dimmest,
rainbows in her eyes the colors
of every bottle behind Jan,
the bartender who favors T-shirts
the color of cheese left
on the counter for three days.
The tigers, the monkeys out
the corner of my eyes chitter
their warnings but it’s me,
you know, my head is primordial
ooze as soon as she tells me
she’s gone commando tonight.
Satan could try to summon God
in the corner and Jan could give
me three free vodka gimlets
and I wouldn’t notice unless
someone tossed an eyepatch
on a black goat. And so here
we are, words tangled in the air
above this scarred black formica,
syllables flung off in random
directions, innocent barflies
around us who clutch their eyes
and howl like they’re in the jungle.
JOHN THE BAPTIST · LORRAINE CAPUTO
Short-cut hair cascades from
her turned-to-one-side head
resting upon her arms.
The evening rain drips off the tarp,
running in thin streams
into the empty streets.
Her dreams are disturbed.
a cigarette, please
With eyes still sleep-hazed,
she takes the cinco reales
& holds the lighter flame out.
With the smoke drifting away
with each step of that person,
she lays her head back down.
The shower has stopped.
Sparse lamplight gleams
off the block street.
a woman yells above the
clatter of her wood handcart,
Her calls, the rattle
fade into the distance.
The rain begins again,
slipping off the tin roof.
Water pools in one end of the garden.
The song of marimba & choir
fills the night.
In front of this house
a serenade has arrived
for Padre Juan on his feast day.
Umbrellas, sheets of plastic,
cardboard are held aloft
shield the wooden instrument.
Into the sala off the courtyard
they are invited.
The music continues
with guitars & bass & dancing.
Padre Juan smiles a little-boy’s-smile
as he prances, hands in air.
The trombones & trumpets,
the bass drum & snare
After an hour or so,
the celebrants leave
Confetti plasters the tile floor.
The marimba stands silent & safe.
Rain still drips from the sky
& from the mandarin tree, the roses
in the courtyard garden.
Under the sparse lamplight
on a corner of the night,
six horsemen lean in their saddles,
awaiting the corrida of
John the Baptist’s head.
WHAT IF GOD IS STRICT · GLORIA MINDOCK
I am looking for the right flesh with no bleeding
My voice free, hanging from the crucifix
Passion from these lips igniting sins
to clot my mouth
Crucifixes break everyday,
are shoved into a drawer,
collect dust in a thrift shop
Sometimes Jesus becomes so dusty that cleaning
him is a problem
The dust too thick to let him resurrect
When he does, he sneezes
Maybe Jesus will develop an allergy,
a miracle of life
EMPTY SPACES SING LOUDER TO ME · PRIS CAMPBELL
Since your death.
I trip down the path
wounded wolves have earlier forged
through the thickets.
Blood marks the way.
My heart breaks into tiny pieces
that float towards the sunset.
They form a mosaic around
birds rushing to safe places
for another day.
A younger me nets the pieces
at sunrise, molds them into a vase
for the flowers men will bring to my life.
I don’t yet know things can break
so easily or that those flowers
once meant for my arms
will be laid on graves instead.
The wolves call to me,
reminding me I must return.
I send dreams up to holograph hope
to the future me, teetering.
A HOMELESS PATIENT EXPLAINS THE CAUSE OF HIS KELOID SCARS, · ROBBIE GAMBLE
dropping his pants to reveal dark, meaty ropes criss-crossing his buttocks and thighs, snaking up into his torso, fibrous and taut, twisting his gait into a painstaking shuffle. “I got burned in the riots the day after Dr. King got shot. I was five years old. That’s it.”
I can’t help myself from realizing that on that day, I was a little boy, too.
issue 15 · spring 2020 · page 3
A QUICK EASY WAY TO LEARN TO RIDE A BICYCLE · ZVI A. SESLING
I am six years old in the first grade and my father sits me atop my first bicycle. He holds the handle bars and the back of the seat running alongside before pushing and yells, hold on, hold on, don’t fall.
Somehow I keep myself upright as I hurtle down a small hill, off the sidewalk and across the street where I bounce over the curb into the side of a building. My dad yells turn, turn So I steer left and he yells, pedal, pedal. As I try pushing the pedals he suddenly yells brake, brake! I don’t know how to brake so I steer toward a fire hydrant and my aim is good. I go over the handle bars and the fire hydrant then bounce off a parked car, land on the sidewalk and get scrapes and bruises like someone gathering wild flowers and my father says next time will be easier.
AUDIOLOGY · M. J. TURNER
The dragonflies swoop.
Fighter pilots strapped into tiny biplanes
painted bronze or powder blue,
I strain to hear their invisible engines
whir as they skim the picnic table —
one after the other,
dipping down, rising up
high into the haze again.
The neighbor’s little girl, pink camo
backpack jammed between her feet,
can lure them to her outstretched hand:
their darning-needle bodies sink
to her finger in the powdery light,
trembling for her silent orders.
Young girls, with still-soft bones,
listening to the humming sun.
IN MY HOUSE GIRLS GOT THE BEST · JOE COTTONWOOD
so Karina my older sister
and Grandma Kate got the two good bedrooms
while Dad slept upstairs
and I got the pantry closet next to the kitchen
with a window over the garbage cans.
I would play with Karina.
She invented the best games,
used the best words.
When I was ten, she was twelve,
I’d say Golly.
She’d say Be dynamic.
I’d say Mickey likes Minnie.
Karina would say Mickey’s entire existence
pivots on the dimple of Minnie’s smile.
I’m 72, Karina is 74 and nutty as a woodpecker.
She visits each Christmas, brings gifts of
homemade persimmon bread, plum jam.
On her meds she’s bland like a rag doll.
Off, this Christmas she tells me
Dad was the father of my cousin.
Dad murdered Mom.
I say Golly.
Karina has a house worth millions
in a neighborhood turned trendy,
lives alone with cats, a great big bedroom
floor covered in stacks of books mags newspapers.
I live in a cottage in the woods but okay.
I’m the boy.
STRAYED EPHEMERA · DAVID P. MILLER
He declared bankruptcy, so they postponed the wedding and she took a job on the opposite coast.
She unexpectedly whirled around and spilled the cashews into the storm drain.
He continued polishing his late mother’s silver and read the text message ninety minutes afterwards.
Turning to pick up his dropped umbrella, she lost the [ illegible ] in her other hand.
He missed her message, ran to the ferry and did not see the car as it jumped the median strip.
[ erased ] agreed to a move to Colorado but they misplaced their [ illegible ] before that.
She arrived for a sandwich one day later and her waitress had been fired.
He forgot [ unreadable ] for the final time.
The subway car arriving in front of him was out of service and [ he? ] entered one with an ad for a clinical trial.
She took out the rest of her dinner but left it at a bus stop and someone new to the city [ torn ].
They [ illegible ] their minds and [ erased ] to the [ cut ].
It rained harder, so he skipped the gallery opening and a younger woman bought the lithograph.
He remained fixed on [ smeared ] and she decided [ cut ] his child.
With her coffee unfinished, [ illegible ] before someone fainted [ torn ].
He re-read the letter, sent to the wrong address, three times.
[ torn ] [ struck out ] as someone [ she? ] had not [ unfinished ]
Uncuntable · Mary Lou Buschi
The student shifts in his seat, trying to think of a time he overcame. You see, it’s high school, we are all overcoming each day, both trapped in this in between. He starts, “There was this time I was uncuntable with failure.” The assignment was impossible except it was possible. Many students were able to create the Pringle ring without glue.
I was 11 when my best friend’s father started calling me scarecrow. He was intimidating, a large gourd of a father, always adjusting his enormous jeans. I never answered back. I understood the insult. I was uncomfortable with developing so young. I wore flannel shirts, sweatpants, allowed my brother’s ex to cut my hair into a 70s shag.
He began to scream, stop his feet. I took him outside. Told him to take a walk to the fountain, wash his face. What is before you will always be hard; if it wasn’t there is no overcoming.
It was a photo, of an old- haggard-women from a fairytale. The boy everyone loved held the photo in his hand and laughed out loud saying my name over and over.
What do we learn from cruelty?
He continues, “I realized that my anger wasn’t helping.” You see the tenuous nature of the sculpture needed a steady hand. Doubting the ability to create the perfect sphere caused it to fall.
When I was 13 one of the fathers called me Lolita. Was this better than scarecrow? Why were the other adults laughing? He never liked me, he said. Never trusted me. I still dream about his stare. I hated him with all of my adolescent self.
“After I calmed down I tried again to create the shape.” What seemed so easy for others. His sculpture still fell but he held it in.
A time when I was uncuntable: no one new I was wrecked.
Mannequin · Bill Ratner
My Aunties took me to the Rose Garden, a tattered, sandy spot of paths and rusted signs
which once identified shrubs and bushes that now overgrow the edges of the place.
My mother’s sisters smelled of coffee and drugstore cologne. They had fuzz on their upper lips, lady-staches my Aunt Collie called them.
Though my aunties were blood and comforted me when I was with them they felt as far away as billboards on a hill—gathered cotton skirts, old purses, their manner of speaking in low
cigarette tones, small felt hats with folded veils and pearl hatpins, This’ll put a man’s eye out,
my Aunt Collie said, feigning a lunge.
After a single, slow turn around the Garden my aunties drove me back to their rambling shingle house. Oh, your mother, they said with a sad downturn of voice. Oh, your brother, what a handsome boy, how could he go like that?
In the upstairs den my aunties kept a dress mannequin moldable in shape and size made from wire hexagons ringed together, her pubus naked, untended. She lived in a closet with house dresses and an ironing board. At the hips she was bolted to a walnut stand with wheels.
I pulled her out and turned her shoulders to me. She was headless, armless, legless but seemed proud of purpose, fitted with blouses, ensembles, pinned and stretched, now naked, poised.
To soften the chafe and scratch I placed a tissue in the hole below her stomach and entered her.
It was fast and complete. The stained tissue fell at my feet. I rolled her back into the closet and gently closed the door. She belonged to my aunties.
issue 15 · spring 2020 · page 4
Climate Change · Brad Rose
It’s not hard to get lost in the Insomnia islands. Everything is on fire there, as usual, although sometimes, I wish I was left-handed, so I could make some new mistakes. Sherry says, I shouldn’t make any hasty judgements. Her eyes are the color of pale blue veins, her hair as beautiful as a snake’s. At the Come-on-Inn, an unruly customer refused to leave at closing time. Upon the arrival of the local constabulary, a number of patrons complained of his aimless bouncing and archaic dancing. It was untimely, one angry customer fumed. It provoked anachronistic weeping, another added. You might be surprised to learn just how many industrial secrets are stolen annually. Many claim it’s merely innocent shoplifting, others say it’s better if we keep our mouths shut. Some days, the hot days are colder than the cold days and the cold days are warmer than the hot days, although I prefer no weather of any kind. I think we may all be owed an apology. Of course, it’s not redaction, if it’s merely crossed out. Yesterday, as I was practicing my cinematic technique, the room grew darker than a night flight to Guantanamo. Sherry said, Don’t you think you should get some sleep, Aron? I reminded her, The ocean is on death row, the continents burn like pyromaniacal Boy Scouts, and almost anything might happen, next. I just wanted to check with her. Make sure she felt comfortable with it.
Tagged · C. C. Russell
The photograph she sends today is a sunrise (or is it setting?). It’s a perfect calendar kind of shot, you know the ones: Long straight fingers of light coming through clouds. The kind of picture that used to be on the cover of those “Have you been saved?” pamphlets and I wonder if people still hand out pamphlets, have revivals, if they still try as hard as they did then. If they still believe they’re converting the world.
We’ve been doing this for two months, trying something new. We text each other a photo every day. No explanations. Just that single picture and whatever the other person sees in it. At first, I tried making the messages a little less subtle: I remember one where I laid out books so that their titles made a sentence. I have no idea what got through.
You know the adage, a picture and however many words it is worth. The problem is, it isn’t necessarily the words that you want to say once you send that photo. You just can’t make someone see your thoughts. Author intent versus reader response.
Today, I place myself in the frame for the first time. I’m wearing the shirt I had on the day we almost met, the one that I had told her to look for. I’m wondering if she’ll remember.
Grace against the Clock · Kevin Stadt
the clock is ticking
bloodspitting bats twist
whispering moonriver air
fossils flare and jostle
rotting mineral coins
cling to sister stones
broken bridges rubble and rust waterwise
lean winter hounds drift raw
floods of grave fears
the best and worst waves
loose shrill wails of
shame and death
The Barrow · Anastasia Vassos
John 12:24: …unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.
The earth is settling.
It’s been over a year
and still no headstone
the earth’s icy crust.
The guise of the sun
hits the heap
I haven’t eaten
and I hunger.
Before she died
she craved oysters
baked in rock salt.
The succulent tongues
sheltered, mute. The shells stacked
on a cracked blue plate.
The antique Greeks tied
adjective to noun –
small coin – to name kolyva
the mournful food they bartered
to keep alive their dead.
Odd treat that mixes
bitter and sweet.
I can see the recipe
in Mother’s hand:
Boiled wheat berries.
Parsley. Yellow raisins.
Amass the kolyva
in the shape of a burial mound
on a platter.
Crush crackers on top
to keep the final coat
of sugar from melting
into the mound.
Some recipes call
for pomegranate seeds
when they’re in season.
I add six just in case.
Something I Didn't Want to Hear · Kevin Ridgeway
he interrupted my story about my dead lover,
told me to forget about her.
I stopped right there with my tongue
about to lash him into a million little pieces
but instead I remained quiet, with one arm
hanging by my side, my fist shaking
in yet another imaginary fight
when she holds my fist back
as I try to breathe, breathe, breathe
in order to forget the love she left behind
with me in a world where people tell me
I don’t even know what love is.
Early November · Scott Silsbe
Leaning out of my upstairs bathroom window,
I watch the crows follow each other, en masse,
from Garfield toward downtown into the sunset.
issue 15 · spring 2020 · page 5
haunted relics · Heidi Blakeslee
our holy grails are
places where spirits have been seen
by more than one person at a time
we find our source of wonder
by dreaming of
how dark dark is
we want to shine flashlights into basement corners
we already know the spirit world exists for sure,
and we test it over and over
assuring ourselves we’re not crazy
and it is ever there
in the doll, in the chair, in the mirror, in the old piano, in the room
and we feel comforted by that
hoping we can study and pick apart that relic
until we’re certain
it’s just a
Ordinary Nimbus · Seth Jani
Empty as the twist of flames around
a phantom’s body, as the golden nomenclature
of light in autumn’s room. Empty as wisteria-vines
full of rattling seeds, as the pink travelogues
of distant summers. No more will the fat moon
kiss my slumber, or the thinning darkness waif away.
Mirages tumble down from the absolute conviction,
science teeters towards belief.
On the road out of dawn-break, we are always changing,
moving closer to the sublunar self, our secret orbits.
No one but the body knows the cartography
of tides, the moon’s ecstatic blueprints.
Nothing but our bones can hold the otherworldly ache.
Bright and sacrificial, we lay down the heart’s desires
and find a bigger music there.
Mother Cabrini · Alan Catlin
Mother Cabrini, a disinterred saint in her glass and gold casket, N.Y.C. 1960
Exhumed in 1933 to facilitate
the process of becoming a saint.
Body parts removed and shipped
to various shrines.
Good works include: a sister of
Missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
and Sacred Heart Orphan Asylum.
Beatified in 1938 for curing a
Canonized in 1946 for curing
a terminally ill congregate.
Is the patron saint of immigrants.
Was photographed in state by Diane Arbus
in 1960, presumably after, the addition
of sculpted face mask and sculpted hands
to the body for “a more life-like viewing”
Currently on permanent display in NYC
housed in a bronze casket with glass
for the faithful to better gaze upon her person.
All of this is normal, right?
Fossil · Jess Skyleson
Stripped of skin,
fin becomes fingers,
palm held open,
encased in rock
I lay my own in yours,
What primordial seas did you swim
through these canyons
a hairline crack?
How deep will we sink,
water can also carve stone?
Fragmenting: A Sonnet in Infinitives · Yuan Changming
To be a matter when there’s no question
Or not to be a question when nothing really matters
To sing with a frog squatting straight
On a lotus leaf in the Honghu Lake near Jingzhou
To recollect all the pasts, and mix them
Together like a glass of cocktail
To build a nest of meaning
Between two broken branches on Ygdrasil
To strive for deity
To come on and off line every other while
To compress consciousness into a file, and upload it
Onto a nanochip. To be daying, to die
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