Friday, August 10, 2018

If a Tree Blah, Blah, Blah

If it drops first as a seed into the soft black humus
of its forbears, taking root, growing green and sapling
into something tall enough and wide enough to shade

a picnic between lovers but never, ever does; if the trunk
of it grows a thick brown bark that never once eases the itch
of a grizzly bear’s back; if its branches grow long, lush, and 

heavy with fuzzy leaves that one season after another season
fail to nest the wide open Vs of shivering chicks; if it awakens
every morning for coffee, bitter in the dark, before its daily trudge

through invisibility and grasping for something slightly greener than
the week after week direct deposit of imaginary numbers straight into
the strange isolation of fearing missing a phone call while singing

in the shower; if it wanes before ever being climbed; if it shrivels
into cracked fractions of what it was supposed to have become
before falling without making a sound, have I ever really lived?

First appeared in Avatar Review

Friday, August 3, 2018

Galleywinter #8 - Ricki Mandeville

You Love the Man That Winter

Over diner coffee at a scarred table, steam 
from the cups rising like wraiths between you, 
light of gray mornings 
filtered through the smudged window,
streets frozen, curbs stacked with dirty snow. 

Hair disheveled from his cap
he feeds you crumbs of his past:
his broken childhood, the stony fields,
the red scream of his back 
from his father’s belt. His mother, 
silent exile drifting through the kitchen. 
The Spartan room where he read Kerouac 
while the house slept.

Imagine. The dark hallway, cold linoleum 
beneath your feet as you creep
to the narrow bed where he lies on his side, 
and you lift the cover, slip in at his back, 
press your lips to the welts. 
The black river near his house, 
the bedroom window he climbs out at midnight, 
the owls, the rustling branches, rush of water
and you, who kiss him with wind in your mouth. 
His skin smells of earth, his breath of bread.

At home, you watch him move among your books,
your art. All winter you stare at his solemn mouth.
You know you cannot ease him; he will run.
You remember your grandmother’s caution: 
Who’s broken will break you. 
And then it is March, blue ice 
in your chest as the streets thaw. 

Ricki Mandeville is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has had poetry published in Comstock Review, San Pedro River Review, Gravel, Penumbra, Hartskill Review, Front Porch Review, Texas Poetry Calendar and other publications. She lives and writes near the ocean in Huntington Beach, CA. She is the author of A Thin Strand of Lights and two chapbooks.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Portrait of a Mother and Her Son Walking Across a Bridge

They’re holding hands as all autumn unfolds
behind them. She watches him watch his step.

He is aware of the camera, sure, and grins,
but he cannot help noticing they’re walking
over water – water that is a long way down.

I imagine their conversation, his questions
about distance, depth, certain structural strengths.

I take a second to wonder why they are alone,
about what invisible things they might be lugging
across the damp boards, how they manage smiles.

I now imagine other questions and her answer, maybe,
“Son, there’s nothing that’s not a bridge."

First appeared in Avatar Review

Friday, July 20, 2018

Poems I Admire #53

Nick Norwood

Remember that first time
you let yourself in – 
stunned by the sheer
silence of it all,

the sunlight blooming
on mute, blank-faced
walls. And how you
stormed, then,

from room to room
blistering furniture
and framed photos with your
hollering, commanding

the sunlight to go away
go away go away
because you wanted
to be alone.

Remember how you
yelled yourself
dizzy – exhilarated
and scared.

And how you
eventually dropped
into a chair
and watched

the sunlight
creep silently across
floors, up walls,
and let itself out.

2018 Pushcart
First appeared in The Greensboro Review

Poet Nick Norwoodis a professor of creative writing at Columbus State University and the director of the Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians in Columbus, Georgia, and Nyack, New York. His poems have appeared widely in a number of national and international literary journals, online sites, and public broadcasts—The Paris Review, Southwest Review, Western Humanities Review, Southwestern American Literature, The Wallace Stevens Journal, Shenandoah, Southern Poetry Review, Pleiades, Ekphrasis, Poetry Daily, The New Ohio Review, Five Points, The Oxford American, The Greensboro Review, The South Carolina Review, New South, storySouth, Atlanta Review, This Land, the PBS NewsHour site Art Beat, U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser’s syndicated column American Life in Poetry, on NPR’s Writer’s Almanacwith Garrison Keillor, and many others.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Struggle Is Real

And Gravity’s a son of a bitch.
In fact, The Struggle and Gravity

are Bad Luck and Trouble’s bastard
twins – the result of a sultry summer

liaison on that beach near Guadalajara
where they shared more than a pitcher

of margaritas one afternoon and ended
up panting together under the very same

ceiling fan. Hell, yes, The Struggle is real – 
real as the way either More or Less gets old

as tossing and turning inside twisted sheets
while Recurring Secret Dream takes its time

sucking off all the breath you’ll ever have.
Imagination’s real, too. How else could it

bury you beneath the way it makes Every Day
a viscous plod of going nowhere at the speed

of Refrigerator Light? But The Struggle? Well,
it’s reality not checked at the door, reality twice

warmed over, reality heavy as Gravity on a bender
halfway between Pretty Damned Good and Gone.

First appeared in Avatar Review

Friday, July 6, 2018

Galleywinter #7 - Ricki Mandeville

Bedtime Stories

Propped high in my narrow bed
I’d read them to myself, sometimes in whispers,
in the glow of my Cinderella lamp
that warmed the walls and blurred the shadows. 
I turned pages while outside the window 
the sky brewed mystery, as it does tonight 
behind the burned-out streetlamp: 
drifts of cloud that wisp across the moon 
exposing here and there scatters of stars 
like careless tosses of salt.

On spring nights, the breeze dragged lilac blooms 
across the window screen, scenting my room, 
where heroines lived lifetimes as the clock ticked 
toward midnight and past midnight,
and no one came to open my door 
or tell me to put out the light.
In winter, beneath my chenille spread,
I was a sun-scorched castaway,
lonely and fierce, lost until dawn 
outlined the neighbor’s roof.

It is winter now, my toes icy, the lamp dark,
book untouched on the nightstand.
The story in my head ticks on 
toward midnight and past midnight. 
In the darkness, I write and rewrite it: 
the bizarre plot twists, the stunning climax—
my happy ending a fingertip away.

Ricki Mandeville is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee and has had poetry published in Comstock Review, San Pedro River Review, Gravel, Penumbra, Hartskill Review, Front Porch Review, Texas Poetry Calendar and other publications. She lives and writes near the ocean in Huntington Beach, CA. She is the author of "A Thin Strand of Lights" and two chapbooks.

Friday, June 29, 2018

There's No Quiet in Her Silence

unless you consider the wail
of a glacier as it splits down
the middle under the shimmer
of Aurora Borealis, the crack
of lightning striking the crook
of a branch so thick it creaks
and crackles on its slow fall
to the ground it immediately
begins to burn, or the groan
of ice crystals as they shove
a pebble from a mountainside
and the stampede of boulders
that roar against its absence
as sounds so soft they fade
like the hush of exhausted lovers –
lingering and panting in the dark.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Like Cold Wringing Water from Air

That’s how lungs become frostbitten
balloons of rigid suffocation,

how skin blues around bones
brittle as a lake’s last sheet,

how blinking hurts
against the forever-dark

of a wintertime working
to turn the heat of tears frigid

as wind-burned scars of icy need,
how I long to know your warmth.

First appeared in the Homestead Review

Friday, June 15, 2018

Poems I Admire #52

The Blind Woman Dictates a Poem to Her Love

I used to know how you looked:
strong arms, wrists like a deckhand
on trawlers, your nets reaping tons
from the sea. Arms that could go ten
rounds with anyone in the ring – 
you still have the belts and trophies.

The back of your neck dark red
from the sun. No hat could protect you,
only a hooded parka in snow, when your thighs
became tough as telephone poles
in Texas, relentless and intense
against twisters and hail.

The white of your covered and protected
torso. Narrow-waisted, ribbed from sit-ups
you do each night, the arrow of light brown
hair guiding me to another place I love,
the fiery part of you – the reason I learned
to always leave the lights on with you.

And your kind face. No words to describe
the ruddy intelligence brooding
behind thoughtful eyes the color of seaglass,
if collected from glaciers, white-blue and bold
as they showed without doubt how much
I was loved, no matter the amount we debated.

I can still hear your sit-ups, your counts as they
get short of breath and then breathless. Of course
I can feel your arms around me, hear your whispers
stroke my many insecurities. But the lights – absent
as color on a moonless night. How frost hides
the beauty of a mountain stream, so much is lost.

First appeared in Coe Review

Tobi Alfier is a multiple Pushcart nominee and multiple Best of the Net nominee. Her chapbook “Down Anstruther Way” (Scotland poems) was published by FutureCycle Press. Her full-length collection “Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn’t Matter Where” is recently out from Kelsay Books. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review (

Friday, June 8, 2018

Tracking Lovers on the Shore

I squat, squint. They’re barefoot,
married with two young sons.
She is pregnant with another.

They don’t yet know.
I slide my index finger
along the outer edges

of their soggy indentations.
She will fear another miscarriage.
He will fix the hot-water heater.

Tasting the gritty residue
with the tip of my tongue,
I know they are not moving away

from her parents, after all.
He has declined the promotion.
The arc of their path tells me

they spent all last night
reminding themselves of each other
to the steady rhythm of coming-

gray breakers.
I look behind, watch

their footprints begin to vanish
beneath the now rising tide
like forgiveness.

I move forward.
Step into their steps.
Think I can do this forever.

First appeared in the Homestead Review