Tag: poetry

From Issue 23: Numb-Struck

John Hicks
As the last restraint clicked on my arms, they tightened
the belts across my chest and waist. A dark figure rose
behind the surgery windows, leaned forward.
Overhead speakers, said: Begin.
Preparing numbness, an attendant sobbed,
I can’t face him. I can’t do it.
Someone flipped a sheet over my head;
pink flowers on light blue cotton against
my nose. A flash of light from the left;
doors opened; a soft thud
as they closed. Someone gripped my left arm,
Control: We’re starting now.
Softer: You’ll feel a slight sting, maybe a chill.
And I did. As they pumped the dye
into my arm, it stung; then rushed cold
up into my shoulder. On my right, a voice read out
metered progress. Muted discussion back and forth.
Control we’re trying again.
Multiple hands on my left arm. Again
the sting, the cold. Again the read-out.
Again the conference. Someone on the left said,
We have to get it this time.
To me, John, we’re going to do it again. I nodded
against the sheet; thought of the sack in Fargo.
Control, we’re doing it again. It didn’t take.
The sting, and they began squeezing my arm like a cake
decorator puckering pink sugar roses.
I must have floriated the display; they said I could relax.
Movement around me seemed to pull back,
then stopped as Doc entered, introduced himself,
Do you feel this? Or this? A rustle
of paper garments; a click of instruments;
Control commanded: Stop!
Beneath the bed of flowers, I tasted salt.
John Hicks is a narrative poet whose work has been published or accepted for publication by:  Valparaiso Poetry Review, I-70 Review, Ekphrastic Review, Glint Literary Journal, Midnight Circus, Panorama, Mojave River Review, and others.  He writes among the wild horse bands of northern New Mexico.  

From Issue 23: The Doll

Joan Colby
At Marshall Fields that year
When I was eight,
They took a photograph to make
A doll with my face,
My wavy auburn hair.
I unwrapped that doll
On Christmas day. She had
A wardrobe of clothes
Just like mine. A green wool coat
Trimmed with muskrat fur,
A taffeta skirt and lace collared blouse,
A skating outfit and small white skates,
Flannel pajamas and scratchy underwear,
All sewn by my mother
Late at night on the Singer.
The doll was eerie, my
Doppelganger. A better child
Than I would ever be.
She had a pimpled leather prayer book
Fit for a believer,
Unlike me.
She sat in my bedroom
On a quilted chair
Before the vanity mirror
Where we were both reflected.
Her hair brushed to shine,
Her smile impassive,
Her complexion putty-colored
Minus my freckles, her brown eyes kind
And compliant.
My mother named her Dolores, her choice
For me vetoed by my father who said
It meant sorrow.
Dolores’ legs bent
So she could kneel
With her little rosary
In her little fingers.
Joan Colby’s Selected Poems received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and Ribcage was awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Her recent books include Carnival  from FutureCycle Press, The Seven Heavenly Virtues from Kelsay Books and Her Heartsongs from Presa Press. Her latest book, just published is Joyriding to Nightfall from FutureCycle Press.

From Issue 23: Three Poems

Chloe Yelena Miller
Three Weeks Early
Most of me, all of you, hidden:
blue curtain along my bare clavicle.
My head turned to one side to vomit,
jaw rattled with cold, gasps.
Your father held my hand, kissed my face.
I thought of my mother,
cold enough to ask for socks in labor.
I couldn’t feel my feet to know if they were cold.
Did you hear my cries
before I heard yours?
Finally, you, brow furrowed,
saw my wet face
from the distance of your father’s arms.
I tried to push you out, sweet baby love.
I wanted to pull you to my chest,
nurse you and stroke your dark hair.
There was so much I’d planned,
before the blood & rush the night before.
I Knew
I knew I’d die in childbirth.
(I was wrong about that, too.)
Once I could walk after the C-section,
I pulled my body & IV to the bathroom.
I had felt, and now could see in the dim light,
whiskers on my chin.
No one had plucked them.
No matter.
Only my breasts and hands would be remembered in photographs.
What would baby think of me?
He had been inside. Knew me the way no one else did.
What would he think of me, now?
four weeks old
You startle me. A human
displacing yesterday’s empty space.
Some call life a miracle.
But hilltop gods didn’t glue together dirt,
olive branches and marble with saliva
to build you or the others.
Closing apartment doors startle you.
Your arms push back behind your head;
hands thump against
me or the crib, squinting eyes dart.
That reflex to protect yourself,
to survive against storms, other humans.
My instinct to protect you,
to remove all inside doors,
lay shag carpet & hang medieval
tapestries to muffle sound.
To nail boards over the windows,
hold you too tight in my arms
as we hide under the crib.
I have so much to unlearn.
Chloe Yelena Miller is a writer based in Washington, D.C. She teaches writing at the University of Maryland University College and Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C., as well as privately. She blogs at chloeyelenamiller.com and tweets at @ChloeYMiller.

From Issue 22: Dusk

John Hicks
Nearly dark when I got home from work.  On the deck, a young raccoon was draining the hummingbird feeder, his hind paws on the rail, the long fingers tilting it so the sugar water ran down the side to his tongue.  Seeing me, he ran along the rail, front legs hurrying to stay ahead of hind ones.  Quick leap onto the tree, he scrambled head-first to the ground, black claws scratching his departure.  He disappeared downslope into the darkening trees of the watershed.  Further down, two Barred Owls called back and forth.  They always sound muffled–like a mystic figure invoking spirits through a cloak-draped forearm.  A hummingbird buzzed me as I lifted the feeder from its hook; impossible to see it against the shadows.  A doe watched from the wildflowers where they edge out from the trees.  I went to the kitchen for an apple, but when I returned, she was moving off, parting the fireflies in the undergrowth.  So, I ate it and watched the sun dip beyond the far ridge, backlighting the trees like teeth in a comb.  As it withdrew, the cicadas went silent.  Then the birds.  Even the breeze in the pines.  It was like the momentary space an audience gives when the curtain goes up.  
And I’m in a rowboat on San Diego Bay.  I’m sunburned and thirsty, have an oar in each blistered hand, and my butt’s sore from the board seat.  It’s late.  I’m sixteen, and don’t want to head in, to surrender this independence, oblivious to my family’s concern.  By myself for a day, I find rowing mindless enough that the day slips from my shoulders.  I’m enjoying not being responsible; no thought about where I’m going; safe within the bay.  The sun is setting over Point Loma, shadow pouring over the near shore.  I rest the oars, water from their tips drops into ripples that flatten as they slip away.  This is the first time I hear it:  No gulls shrieking, no bus engines or car horns.  Not even children playing on the sand.  For a short time, the world holds its breath.  I think no one has ever noticed this before.  I lean forward, waiting for something significant to happen.  But the city exhales: mothers call their children, buses pull away from curbs, a light changes and traffic starts.  Darkness moves across the Bay, across the city, and all I know is there are things invisible in my everyday.  
I left the apple core for the raccoon to find.  Went in.
John Hicks is a narrative poet whose work has been published or accepted for publication by:  Valparaiso Poetry Review, I-70 Review, Ekphrastic Review, Glint Literary Journal, Midnight Circus, Panorama, Mojave River Review, and others.  He writes among the wild horse bands of northern New Mexico.  

From Issue 22: When I Try to Meditate on
a Plane & Instead Imagine…

Mimi Plevin-Foust
someone pulling open the
emergency exit, sucking me
out as I grab onto the door
frame— then whip away,
perhaps still buckled to my seat
with other hapless fliers
hurtling through sheer freezing
blue toward the cloud cover’s
endless Arctic below….
Would I unbuckle from my
seat and stretch out like a hawk
or sky diver spread-eagled
in happy freefall like all my
dreams of flying, controlling
my descent like a glider,
phone-keys-ID’s dropping
away as I pray to every angel
and archangel for my perfect
rescue, preferably plunging
right into a band of handsome
paratroopers who grab me into
their star formation, then break
apart to hold me close as their
chutes explode open overhead,
allowing me to enjoy sailing
through the heavens in the
arms of a devilishly good-
looking airman to land in an
open field of soft alfalfa with
hardly a scratch?
Or, do I stay buckled in to ride
that airplane seat down to a
breathtaking water landing, my
seat skiing across some large
unfrozen lake, my legs pointed
straight ahead to avoid drag,
until, soaking wet but
unharmed, I gently glide to a
bobbing halt near two curious
swans, the whole skid live-
streamed by amazed joggers on
Of course, I’ve left out the
logical end to my story when I
slam into whatever I happen to
hit—ground, trees, power
lines— ripping my soul free
from its shattered body—
wiser—in that I at last know
what a person thinks about
when hurtling to their certain
death and whether that moment
comes before or exactly when
she meets the ground.
Over her career, Mimi Plevin-Foust has been a poet, glass artist, screenwriter and filmmaker. Her poems and articles have been published by Carve Magazine, LearnVest/Forbes.com, POZ Magazine, Willow Review, and more. She lives in Cleveland, Ohio and recently won the Gordon Square Review Poetry Contest. Learn more at mimiplevinfoust.com.

From Issue 22: The Mojave River

John Brantingham
Out here the gods play
their games with lost wanderers,
the river appearing now
out of a muddy hole like bruised faith
and disappearing again
in a mile.
It threads its way in and out
of the surface
during the long dry months,
and hiking these desert paths, I wonder
how many people walked
over the Mojave River
just ten feet above the water
that would have saved them.
I wonder
if any of them just gave up here,
sat down and died
not truly understanding
how cruelly twisted
the gods they worshipped
could be.
John Brantingham is Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park’s first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has ten books of poetry and fiction including A Sublime and Tragic Dance. He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College.

Featured: Jealousy

a hunger that
will split a hair—
then hunger till
the head is gone—
Laura Wendorff is professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. She has been published in several journals, most recently Spillway and Schuylkill Valley Journal. Wendorff’s essay “Worth The Risk: Writing Poetry About Children With Special Needs” was nominated for a Best of the Net Award and the Pushcart Prize.

Featured: Watch Her Sleep

Endika Sangroniz

Endika Sangroniz is a 21-year-old singer/songwriter and poet from the Basque Country, Spain. Last year, he wrote his first full-length collection of poems entitled ‘Songs That Can’t Be Sung’, which is still to be published. Endika’s poems tend to be much rawer and darker than his songs, shattering the classic structures.

Featured: The Invitation

Paul Hostovsky
Being white and having attended a few
racial justice meetings where the talk
is of cultivating authentic relationships
with people of color, I asked a black co-worker
if he’d like to come over for dinner. He answered
my question with a question of his own: “Why?
I mean, it’s not like we’re friends or anything.”
“Well, I’m trying to cultivate,” I recited,
“more authentic relationships with people
of color.” He made a face. “Cultivate?
As in, your garden? As in, you want some more
purple eggplants, some more token negritude
in the pale, pathetic, privileged patch that is
your life?” Ouch. He wasn’t going to make this
easy. Lean into the discomfort, I remembered
them saying at the racial justice meetings
in the suburb where I live, where a person of color
is as rare as a white eggplant among the aubergines.
“Not token,” I said, smiling and wincing
at the same time. “For real.” And it felt a little like
asking someone out on a date, someone
a little out of my league. “The real question,” he said,
stroking his chin in a pensive attitude, then twirling
his imaginary mustache while sizing up my imaginary
chef’s hat, “is what’s for dinner? Something
toothsome, I hope.” And he gave me his beautiful teeth.
Paul Hostovsky‘s tenth book of poetry, LATE FOR THE GRATITUDE MEETING, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, and have been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer’s Almanac. Website: paulhostovsky.com

From Issue 21: For Kurt

Andrey Gritsman
I am sitting at McSorley’s
alone. He is late.
Raining, and cabs are scarce,
I guess.
Notes GIs left before
embarking for Europe,
1917, still stuck behind the bar.
GIs, who never came back
to McSorley’s.
I am sure he’ll show up
Candles dying slowly,
trembling, melting.
The beer is straw-colored,
strong, eternal.
I am on the second one,
thinking of his 6th Ave. poem,
Then leaving, wandering,
stopping at Pete’s by O’Henry’s table.
Then Union Square Market,
inspecting gladioli from LI nurseries.
Another drink at Algonquin,
Chelsea, thinking of those greats
ended up flying from their windows
to the pavement of the 14th Street.
All the way down to Cornelia.
Red-faced Robin, raconteuring
at the bar after tasting
new delivery of Sancerre.
Angelo, absentmindedly
nursing his cold cigar,
his quiet, sad smile lives by itself
in time and space.
But Kurt is not there,
hasn’t come yet, getting dark.
And then I realize—
he is also looking for me
in some other domains.
 Andrey Gritsman, a native of Moscow, immigrated to the United States in 1981. He is a physician, a poet and essayist and has published several volumes of poetry and essays in both languages. Poems, essays, and short stories in English have appeared in over ninety literary journals and were anthologized. Andrey Gritsman edits the international poetry magazine in Russian Interpoezia.