Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Story

after Philip Levine

So, you think you want a story?
Let’s start with a beach, then.
Not the sunny one of thirty years
and one-thousand miles south ago,
the one full of Farrah Fawcett curls,
white crocheted bikinis laced
against smooth brown skin,
and the conquering of waves
you hoped would hide the turmoil
at the very bottom
of your deepest middle.
No, let’s start this story
with the gray beach that came later,
the one that breaks like question marks
into hard packed soak and fog,
the one that is too cold for hiding anything
other than your desire to walk
right into it with your back turned
on a stiff line of people you love,
who watch without reaching
as each step you take carries you
a little further out of focus.
Let’s start there on that beach,
and then let’s just leave it at that.

First appeared in IthacaLit - Winter 2015/2016

The Buddha on the Political Pundit

My children, do not growl yourselves hoarse
snarling back at the victimized ideologue

who knows everything about everything
except introspection. Find peace, my loves,

in providing him the pleasure of listening
to his favorite voice as it returns to his ears

like a forlorn lover through the hollow
nothingness of his pablumatic absurdity.

First appeared in IthacaLit - Winter 2015/2016


Tiny and tired, nestled against my chest,
you cried in stubborn harmony
to my Hush Little Baby.

If that diamond ring turns brass

Bounce-walking to the kitchen window,
I could see the unmowed lawn;
quietly you’d squirm.

Daddy gonna buy you a looking glass

In the hallway, I’d hum Twinkle, Twinkle,
Little Star; the buzz from my chest
steadied your breaths.

Up above the world so high

Meandering past the master bedroom,
we could see her sleeping,
barely covered.

Like a diamond in the sky

In the nursery, beside your crib, I'd coo
The Rainbow Song, home-made
and sung early.

I wish to climb you and slide so far away.
Rainbow, Rainbow, makes a happy day.

This is all my fault.

First appeared in Vayavya -  Winter 2015

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Poems I Admire #11

GW Hurtle, Family Butcher

The sign sticks in my mind: a wooden trestle board
on a street near Hawes, like something worn by men
walking round to announce the end of the world.

A family business, I suppose, handed down from
Hurtle to Hurtle, each ruddy-faced father passing
it on to each ruddy-faced son. Or maybe it meant
meat for all the family – the Sunday roast and so on.

But instead of juicy red mince and stewing steak,
I see legs and livers of uncles, sisters, sons:
Father’s guts, Auntie’s spleen, half-brothers cut
into quarters, dozens of cousins now twice removed;

and in the middle, the head of some toothless grin,
an apple in her mouth, though I’d keep her glasses on.

First appeared in Other Poetry

Will Kemp has won the Envoi International Prize, the Cinnamon Debut Collection Award, the Cinnamon Pamphlet Competition and the Cinnamon Short Story Competition.  Cinnamon has published his collections Nocturnes, Lowland and The Missing Girl, and will publish his next, The Painters Who Studied Clouds, in 2016.  For details, see: www.wkemp.com   

Friday, November 6, 2015

One Flew into the Nest with the Name I Cannot Bear to Say

Still, better here than out smashing windows with his fists
in the middle of the night for a pack of Turkish cigarettes
and scaring the hell out of cops with trigger-fingers.

Here he’s got a blanket to keep him warm as medication,
and even he admits it beats waking up dew-soaked and shivering
in the park where he watched me get remarried a few years after,

well, just after. Here we always shake hands before we hug,
and he’s always groggy from sleeping too long. We hit
the cafeteria and share a meal. He’s as hungry as he is sluggish

and his shirt’s too small to hide stretch marks just above
his beltless beltline. We usually play cards and crack jokes.
Sometimes he smiles exactly like he used to, like we’re at home

sitting across the kitchen table. Just last week, he looked enough
like himself for me to brave a question about the voices, Son,
do they sound real?
He answered, They are real.

First appeared in Chiron Review (Issue 101)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Her Red Dress

after reading Kim Addonizio’s "What Do Women Want?"

She calls it her burial gown,
and it reeks of absinthe sweat,
cigarette smoke, and one too many

broken-heeled walks home all alone
where cabs don't go that time of night.
It slips over curves it doesn't dare hide,

turning every used-up inch of the sticky
white skin it embraces into an ashy smolder
of regrets as deep as the way her men breathe.

It's a wanton red lust, wet with kisses that suck
all its sour secrets before the panting end comes --
wrinkled and thrown to the floor.

First appeared in Vine Leaves Literary Journal - October 2015

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Poems I Admire #10

Alita Darcy

Thinking of her now, that thirteen-year-old girl who died by smacking
into a moving box truck at the bottom of Haskell Street when her bike
brakes failed, I don’t think of her as much as I think of our music
teacher, Mr Dunn, and how exasperated he’d get with Alita when she
came to chorus and put her feet up on the row of chairs in front of her,
leaned back, heavy with attitude, crossed her arms, and fixed him
with her haughty stare until he’d look away, unsure of how to bridle
her, she who never did her homework, talked back and snapped her
gum, said the F-word under her breath, she who I looked up to with
awe, her seventh grader to my sixth seeming a world away, and I think
of the other girl on the back of the bike, nameless to me now, the one
who jumped off in time Alita lost control, and how she must
have felt guilty to be glad for her life, and I think of my own son, the
same age now, and how he is just a boy, and so she must have been
just a girl, and not the powerhouse I made her, her hard surface
probably hiding hurt beneath, and maybe Mr. Dunn wasn’t the
hypocrite I thought when he cried for her after she was gone, perhaps
he saw her as the child she was and mourned for the way he lost their
staring contests, wishing he’d had the fortitude to make her flinch
when he still could, make her lower her long legs in those two-toned
jeans, make her throw out her gum and behave so that she wouldn’t
be the kind of girl to joyride down the steepest hill in town carrying a
friend behind her on the banana seat, daring someone to call her bluff,
no sense knocked into her yet, no fear.

First appeared in Naugatuck River Review.

Rebecca Hart Olander’s poetry has appeared recently, or is forthcoming, in Brilliant Corners, Naugatuck River Review, and Silkworm, and her critical work has appeared in Rain Taxi Review of Books and Solstice Literary Magazine. She was the winner of the 2013 Women’s National Book Association poetry contest, judged by Molly Peacock. Rebecca earned her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Western Massachusetts where she teaches writing at Westfield State University and serves on the board of Perugia Press. You can find her at rebeccahartolander.com.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Forsaking Forsaking

It’s just workplace chit-chat. Just two married people,
not to each other, sharing emailed innuendos, winkies

and hallway high-fives that slide slowly along their palms.
It’s just enjoying a few laughs at lunch or when the sun shines

that especially warm yellow as the river cools the meandering
of their shaded conversations. It’s just a couple of good friends,

whose fingers lace easily as they walk, taking longer each day
to hug each other goodbye. It’s just two close friends texting

at midnight, making sure everything is still OK. It’s just the way
they fill each other’s newly discovered empty spaces. It’s just two

people, married to strangers really, who now know everything –
even that neither can dream these days without closing their eyes.

First appeared in Kentucky Review - September 2015

Friday, September 18, 2015

Normalizing Relations

After three straight nights of butt-to-butt,
he indicates a willingness to surrender
by rolling to his right and coaxing her

into a hushed and giggly negotiation.
She twists against his raised white flag
and their lust for normalized relations

makes coming to terms a very easy thing.
But, just seconds before final ratification,
she pants, How about, a little later, we really talk?

He kisses her forehead, rolls back to his left
and shivers inside another lost d├ętente.

First appeared in Boston Literary Magazine - Fall 2015.

Monday, September 14, 2015


Only eighteen months out of practice, I hum lullabies
to this youngest of my sons of my jaded middle-age
as he sleeps like a furnace swaddled against my chest.

His mother steals a few hard hours alone in bed
with all her senses turned to “Off.” His nearest brother
naps in the mid-morning light of a quiet Sunday

while their older brother raptures at Church with Nana.
I rock and wonder what songs he will return home with,
what troublesome doctrine he will echo the simple fringes

of as his blue eyes widen with the retelling and his voice
grows loud. Now I start humming something else,
something steady from a long time ago.

First appeared in Eunoia Review - September 13, 2015

Friday, July 24, 2015

Poems I Admire #9

Elegy for a Ghost Town

Houses torn apart for tin. Claims abandoned.
No prayers to heaven, they wanted what lies
beneath my feet: graves fenced like cribs.

Chastity, Patience, Faith. Daughters named
for virtues, sons after fathers.
The one-room schoolhouse yields to my push,

alphabets cross the blackboard trunk-to-tail,
children once recited: Cotton, Cattle, Copper.
Rough labor shaped their hands, chalk to slate.

It’s easier to clean your skin than your shirt.
Dampness and dust, weather in caverns
never changes. A shaft resembles a body:

once you blast out the silver there’s no reason
to return. No shiny galena, no glittery traces.
I gather up fragments of rock and bone.

If it sticks to my tongue, it’s bone.
Mercury still trails in the river’s blood,
fevered remains of nineteenth-century

illness. There were no children here.
Towns named for mines, the mines named
for women. Smelter stacks tumbled

to foundation. Contention City, Total Wreck:
the names disappear from accurate maps.
Ghosts only seen by cartographers –

Ruby, Annabel, Miranda.
Towns such a part of the landscape,
it’s no surprise they no longer exist.

From San Pedro River Review and his book "Pima Road Notebook."

Keith Ekiss is a Jones Lecturer in Creative Writing at Stanford University and a former Wallace Stegner Fellow. He is the author of Pima Road Notebook (NewIssues Poetry & Prose, 2010) and translator of The Fire’s Journey by the Costa Rican poet Eunice Odio, forthcoming in four volumes from Tavern Books. Territory of Dawn: The Selected Poems of Eunice Odio will appear in 2016 from The Bitter Oleander Press.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Poems I Admire #8


I was twelve before I realized my father wasn’t white,
until then I thought nothing
of his clay colored skin, eyes dripping
like honey or ropes of black licorice hair
snaking alive and furious down his back.
My breasts sprung early, hips splayed
wide as an overeager invitation
with bones pushing unforgiving
against my own skin, pale and quiet
as the illness. You took me to Radio Shack,
your syrupy southern drawl wrapping like a shy gift
around the simple words,
My wife put something on hold,
and the young clerk, not a decade older than me,
looked at both of us with blatant disgust,
loathing and a shot of envy
even I could sniff out, like a dog
or a wild thing.

“Is this your wife?” he asked, and my chest
was in a painful awakening of an instant
freakishly large, my hips
unable to slam shut, and you
too stunned to be ashamed or angered just whispered,
“That’s my daughter,” before walking out, the snakes gone still,
but for the years I’m too sorry to take back,
the years until the cancer sucked you dry,
I felt it for both of us,
felt it in my thighs built like a horse
and my lips too ripe for a child,
in every year after labor-heavy year
I refused to be seen with you, I’m so sorry
that I saw you gut punched and ugly as a man.

First appeared in Off the Coast

Jessica Tyner Mehta, born and raised in Oregon, is the author of The Last Exotic Petting Zoo which was shortlisted for a Pulitzer Prize and What Makes an Always, both published by Tayen Lane Publishing. She is the founder of MehtaFor, a writing company which serves a variety of clients including Fortune 500 enterprises and major media outlets. As a member of the Cherokee Nation, Jessica offers complimentary writing and editing services through her company to Native American students as well as non-profits based in the Pacific Northwest and/or serving Native communities.

She received her master’s in writing from Portland State University and established The Jessica Tyner Scholarship Fund in 2013. It is the only scholarship for students with a Native American connection pursuing an advanced degree in writing or a related field. An extensive traveler, she has lived in England, South Korea and Costa Rica.

Jessica currently lives in Portland, Oregon where she writes, runs and practices yoga.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Poems I Admire #7

The Extra Blanket at the End of the Bed Speaks
Leigh Anne Hornfeldt

For years I was in love with a geometric
comforter. I spent entire days solving

the algebra of her pattern, counting
her coordinates. Now there's a kaleidoscope quilt.

She makes me dizzy. Mornings I slump
near the footboard, waiting to be folded

or spread, listening for humble sounds
of routine in the kitchen. I'm sick of feet.

Kicking, nestling. I dread the padding
of the cat's paws down the hall,

his indulgent naps and 20 minute baths.
Being ornamental is awful.

I squander afternoons envying
the curtains. I win another staring match

against the ceiling fan. Sometimes
I let myself remember the weekend spent

in the trunk of the car. Absorbing exhaust.
Fantasizing over picnics and breadcrumbs.

It rained instead and on Monday
I was tossed to the laundry room floor.

The dryer is the worst. Out of spite I gorge
on socks and strangle pant legs, roll my edges

to gather more lint. I'd come undone
but needle and thread terrify me. At night

the quiet argument. The heat and spill of sex.
I archive intimacy, stay flat as I can

and when they sleep I listen to a tide
of breathing. I've never heard an ocean.

Sometimes they hang me on a line.
I snap in the wind. Avoid bird shit. 

My hem barely reaches the white tops
of dandelions in the yard. In the distance

a cell phone tower blinks like a lighthouse.
I pretend I'm the sea.

First appeared in Off the Coast.

Leigh Anne Hornfeldt, a Kentucky native, is the author of East Main Aviary & The Intimacy Archive and the editor at Two of Cups Press. In 2013 she was the recipient of a grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women and her poem “Laika” placed 2nd in the Argos Prize competition (Dorianne Laux, judge). In 2012 she received the Kudzu Prize in Poetry. Her work has appeared in journals such as Spry, Lunch Ticket, Foundling Review, and The Journal of Kentucky Studies.