Saturday, May 27, 2017

Twelve Lines Running Across Our Bed

It’s a gray-laced tennis shoe leaning on its mate
or blinding beams of sunrise when walking at dawn.
Sometimes it’s the once red fade of thin lips gone blue.

Stare at it. Watch it become God on Judgment Day,
Satan taking names at baby’s First Communion.
Squint now for focus. See it blur into concrete

gray as the hair beneath a dye so black it’s blue.
You wash its ashen feet with tears and perfumed oil.
Its room fills with bric-a-brac and the aroma

of your forever-and-ever-ago: cut grass, warm bread,
pancakes-and-bacon-and-hot-coffee mornings,
Brylcreem and aftershave, sheets needing cleansed.


First appeared in Literary Orphans - May 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

Poems I Admire #33

The Family Waits
Rich Youmans

They hear his muffler first
– pop-pop-pop-pop-pop –
faint through the screen door
that he’ll walk through in a minute,
then louder as his Plymouth
turns the corner. They picture him
passing the Merkel twins in
the fire hydrant’s gush,
passing Mrs. Lee out on her stoop
with her glass of “iced tea,”
passing Bobby Mac as he paces
up and down the sidewalk,
talking to his shadow
and avoiding the cracks.
Louder and louder that rapid fire grows
– pop-Pop-Pop-POP-POP – until it
stops.

Then the driver’s door creaks open,
and the air shifts to give him room.

They can tell, it’s a bad day.
He doesn’t shower first to wash off
the stink of sweat and tar,
to quench his muscles’ burning flares.
Instead, he marches straight to
the kitchen table, his eyes fixed hard
on its scarred maple top.
He sits down at the table’s head,
waits for his sons to take their seats,
for their now-quiet mother to lay out the meal,
the plates and platters not quite full.

When she sits, he folds his hands,
each knuckle popping like a white flag,
and begins – O Lord –
his voice low, his head bowed,
his fingers locked tight
as if strangling something,
or holding on for dear life.


First appeared in Naugatuck River Review

In addition to writing narrative poetry, Rich Youmans enjoys exploring the Japanese forms of haiku and haibun; a forthcoming collection of haibun, All the Windows Lit, was a 2015 Snapshot Press eChapbook Award winner. He and his wife, Belle, live on Cape Cod.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Sudden as Adultery

In the place where tumbleweeds
roll along nothing but humiliation
and scads of blisters gone scab,
everyone can see what everyone
already knows: the wind wrongs
scorched evenings into a used up
tan of desperation so hot our red
sweat dries before it falls. Spittled
curses, all the anger we can find,
a few dry yellow plants, and spite
fill the only space remaining in us,
a space of shade and conversation
raging hot against the unusual still,
where floodwater flowers bloom
then die as suddenly as adultery,
bright, a passion never fully shared
and strangely sweet between sheets
balled into fists. What comes next?
Secret pleadings for a soft explanation,
an ever-sting at the center of our core,
and the aching understanding of this:
everything lives to be gone for good.


Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)

(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Poems I Admire #32

Early Sorrow
Liz Dolan

After the three sisters had waited nine months
for the baby who was born dead,
they fretted about her being buried alone.

So they placed next to her
their almost-favorite stuffed animals,
the toucan by her plump cheeks
and the kookaburra by her elbow.

In her hands, they put the board book
Good Night Gorilla, in which the gorilla-hero steals
the keys from the zookeeper’s belt,
and frees the elephant, lion and giraffe.
The sisters knew she would laugh
when the animals followed the keeper to his house,
and the gorilla slept in his bed.
Plus she would learn about locks and keys.

And when Grandma died seven days later,
they knew she would read the book to the baby
and blow on her belly and sing
Toora, Loora, Loora.
                                     These are the things
the three sisters did and told us,
the grownups who did nothing, but sit
like stones in our chairs, staring.


First appeared in Naugatuck River Review


Liz Dolan’s poetry manuscript, A Secret of Long Life, nominated for the Robert McGovern Prize, Ashland University, has been published by Cave Moon Press. Her first poetry collection, They Abide, was published by March Street Press. Liz has won the following prizes: The Nassau Prize for Nonfiction, 2011, and the same prize for fiction, 2015; The Cobalt Review’s Baseball Poetry Prize, 2014; Delaware Beach Life’s First Place Poetry Prize, 2012, and Trellis Magazine’s First Place in Poetry, 2008; The Gypsy Satchet Award in Letters from Fiction Fix 16. She has also received fellowships from the Delaware Division of the Arts, The Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Martha’s Vineyard Writers’ Residency. Liz serves on the poetry board of Philadelphia Stories. She is most grateful for her ten grandchildren who pepper her life and who live on the next block.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Time Is Strange

A moment can be as short as a breath,
or as long as eternity.
― Cornell Woolrich

There’s a gray squirrel twitching
on a picnic table. I’m not sure if he sees me
seeing him, but when a dry leaf lights
beside him, he takes note, takes flight
to the safety of the closest fir. He climbs
straight up, unaware that he is beautiful.
The breeze grabs hold of the leaf and sends it away,
leaving the mossy wooden picnic table empty
and all the way gray.

I woke up the other day headache-free.
Neither shoulder hurt. I was hungry
for oatmeal and toast. The very next day,
I woke up to the sound of horns honking
because the light was green. I could not remember
which way I was supposed to turn.
I stuck my arm out the window and motioned
for everyone to pass. It occurred to me then
that my pickup truck would make an interesting
coffin.

I remember the first time I saw her smile.
I remember the first time she smiled at me.
Those smiles were half a year apart
and those were good first days.
We share a hot tub now where I soak alone
in the evening and watch blue clouds fade
pink against my sweat. I lean back
into steamy heat, hold my breath,
close the lid.

A red-headed woodpecker bangs its way up
the squirrel’s tree. I don’t know what to make of that,
so it flies away. There’s lots of green here, the breeze
is an easy thing. The gray squirrel descends
upside down. Beautiful.
I can’t tell if he sees me seeing.
I just can’t tell.


First appeared THAT Literary Magazine  - 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poems I Admire #31

Heaven
Andy Roberts

Albert don’t know shit from apple butter,
says my Dad, stirring a frying pan
of beans and franks. I’m seven years old,
watch some ash from his cigar drop in.
Maybe that’s what makes it taste so good, I think.
Albert, my uncle, can’t cook. Can’t drive a stick shift either.
I can drive a little, work the clutch and three on the tree.
Dad’s in a good mood. We skipped church,
let Mom and the girls try to get to heaven.
The only thing I liked about church were the
cookies and Dixie cups of fruit punch after.
I knew I was never going to heaven
because of my greed, the looks the pastor
and Uncle Albert gave me as I pigged out.
I told Dad I wasn’t going to heaven
and he laughed, delivered his comment on Uncle Albert.
Eat up while it’s hot, he says.
Mixes me a cup of half coffee, half milk,
four teaspoons of sugar.
It’s good and sweet.


First appeared in Off the Coast


Andy Roberts, a four time Pushcart Prize nominee, lives in Columbus, Ohio where he handles finances for disabled veterans. Since the mid-1980's his stories and poems have appeared in hundreds of small press and literary journals including Albatross, Atlanta Review, The Aurorean, Coal City Review, Chiron Review, Cloudbank, Fulcrum, Hiram Poetry Review, Lake Effect, The Midwest Quarterly, Mudfish, Pennsylvania English, San Pedro River Review, Slipstream, The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, and Tule Review, among many others. His latest collection of poetry is Yeasayer (Night Ballet Press 2016.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Uncle Sam

His remembering is a silted bog of nose hairs and earlobes
grown long from his being everything he ever promised.

This is where he turns logs, bends grass, stains his bare feet
green, and balladeers his way to Paradise; where ferocious

pangs of nevermore lie somewhere between imagination
and crust; where his center culls the heat from a closeness

that tears at everything real: innocence; see-through love
emptied of wanting to hear the cold melt into a loud

and sweaty must; a hidden, never confessed match head
turned hot and sulfuric as the lingering of days grown soft

along weeks torn from flesh, red and stringy and raw –
until all that remains is wasting away into defeat

and gorgeous lines of battlefield – slick with red, wet, and soot
over pine needles as forgiving as layered down, echoing songs

of wispy reality remembered though never lived, and serving
as no real ending at all.


Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)

(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Poems I Admire #30

My Father Was a Vegetarian

When I was growing up he told
me that if you want to eat
an animal you have to kill
it yourself, and if you want to kill
an animal you have to eat it.
So when I killed a spider he let me
swallow it with milk, and when I killed
a worm he covered it in chocolate.
With his steady gaze I wriggled
the soft worm down my throat
trying not to chew. See how easy
I make things for you?
he said.


First appeared in Off the Coast – Spring 2013

Ginger Duncan is a writer of poetry, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. A native Oregonian, she lives and works in Portland, but always has her eye out for a new adventure.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Poems I Admire #29

Flowers
John Stupp

Each day
an old Bulgarian
walked between tables
at lunch time in the cafeteria
playing chess against all comers
you couldn’t hear anything
with all the noise
and the stink
it didn’t matte
he moved quickly
against Sicilian Defenses
and the French
and the King’s Gambit Declined
for a couple of bucks
he held a sandwich in one hand
and said very little
a chess master
before the Second World War
he found himself in Cleveland
casting engine blocks
but get this
his daughter was a nurse in the plant hospital
she smelled like flowers
like wild honeysuckle
in this godforsaken place
one year she took a piece of metal
from my eye
the pain was great
she helped me up
then moved away from board to board
quickly fixing everyone else
quiet as her father
even if you begged her


First appeared in Off the Coast – Summer 2016

John Stupp is the author of Advice from the Bed of a Friend by Main Street Rag. His new book Pawleys Island will be published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. Recent poetry has appeared or will appear in The Greensboro Review, Poet Lore, The American Poetry Journal, Into the Void (Ireland), LitMag, The Tishman Review and Slipstream. His poem “Goat Island” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2016. He lives near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Wicker Woman of Wikiup Junction


She had cowboy eyes as deep and dry as the canyon-
cracks splitting her still-nimble fingers. The scorched
skin hanging from her face was an aged bronze sag.
She spoke through heavily-coated-with-lipstick lips,

and I huddled around her pretending to be warmed
by the divinity of having someone hear me confess.
Her laughter was a high-desert snow but her breath

was the must of hamper towels. She told stories
the way wicker women stare: through a thick haze
of antipathy. Sweat would drip between both eyebrow
grooves until she’d daub her face, pick up her tale,

and drop it exhausted as a burlap sack full of beans.
But whenever I’d close my eyes to blink, I’d see her
gentle hands on fevered faces, blowing hot thermals

of breath the way heat flows through canyons or words
snap into the language of abandonment – as if I needed
altogether unwanted scribbled into something legible.
There were times, though, her eyes became a grey sea

seeing angels, the sweetness of dreams, Christmas trees,
hospice, and the foggy goodbye glass of backseats.
They’d roll behind her head as if she were brewing coffee

or frying bacon or remembering everything. I asked her once
if I could be excused. She just kissed me on the salty nape
of my neck and tasted, I think, a certain readiness for fresh air
and all that would someday be.



Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)

(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)