Friday, December 29, 2017

On Spooning

we lie together back to front
               (yours to mine)

your head rests on my right arm
               outstretched as an innuendo

my left arm curls around you
               and the hand of it enjoys the softness
                              of your breasts/the firming of their nipples
                                        to the graze of my wedding ring

you sneak cold toes between my calves
               where I warm them for you

my lips tuck tightly
               within the warmth of your neck

something happens inside my chest
               a sweet seep
                              clear as honey tea/light as light

pure as the way you turn
               kiss me/feel me feel
                              the graze of your ring

First appeared in Cultural Weekly

Friday, December 22, 2017

Poems I Admire #46

Something Salvaged

for Kirstin

The pale underbelly
of marriage, think
trout, all those tiny, disco ball
scales although we flip the fish,
handle it as something
to gut, the knife’s capable
edge and the initial thread
of blood like a zippered seam.

Inside, the accordioned entrails
I scoop up. I can barely look
at you as I handle them. Shame
intricately knotted as any fly hook.
You have long, tapered fingers.
Exact, curious; you look without
flinching, and wrap all those innards
neatly in newspaper. There’s more

there, hidden deep, when I unwrap
the newsprint days later – a moon
colored marble, a large red rubber
band, and deep inside, just like
that story, as hazy and undefined
as the childhood it was told in,
a ring, a wedding band. The story

hinged on that golden ring, but I can’t
for the life of me remember how.
Surely it was enchanting, far reaching
in the way that love was conjured
or saved or explained, imaginatively enough
to leave a thumb print on my child’s mind
but I know, now, in my gut, love is a dirty
business, often something salvaged

and this makes it no less exquisite.
How to explain love when I am often
so unworthy of it? A choice and not
a choice. The white belly, yes, yes,
but those scales, so minute and soft
that the fish feels covered in flesh, human
and not, so I turn it, this way and that,
the light quivering like water, prismed
on the wall and calling up the before – 
the fish whole and swimming.

First appeared in Emerge Literary Journal

Barbara Lawhorn is an Assistant Professor at Western Illinois University. She's into literacy activism, walking Banjo (the best dog in the history of the universe), running, baking and eating bread, and finding the wild places, within and outside. Her most recent work can be found at The Longleaf Pine, BLYNKT, Nebo: A Literary Magazine, and Naugatuck River Review. Her favorite creative endeavors are her kids, Annaleigh and Jack.

Friday, December 15, 2017

I should have brought a bottle

of something Canadian and amber
for you to sip neatly as my hands
spent time getting to know you better.

I should have soothed fragrant oil
from the tropics deeply into your skin
and then lingered upon your softest center,

let my tongue taste your anticipation,
listened for the panting of your lust
and whispered for you to ask me please.

But we were both so ready.

First appeared in Cultural Weekly

Friday, December 8, 2017

Poems I Admire #45

Step Lively

I’ve let night limberjack
me again. Floors swept,
counters bleached, porcelain
scrubbed down like bone,
arms & legs keeping time
with clockhammer rain.

Fifty years old,
& too many friends
already in metal or wood.
Butcher block, casket.
Mixing bowl, urn. Close
the eye & the hand
can’t tell. Repeat.

Doug painted two sides
of his head across
his garage. Ann collaged
words on morphine.
Forms done & undone
by negative space.
The mind wants its fill.

Outside, May takes
wet shape. The jackknife
moon glints. Trees cast down
branches. The creek strips its bank.
Petals glisten, some drown.

First appeared in San Pedro River Review

Robert Lee Kendrick grew up in Illinois and Iowa, but now calls South Carolina home. After earning his M.A. from Illinois State University and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina, he held a number of jobs, ranging from house painter to pizza driver to grocery store worker to line cook. He now lives in Clemson with his wife, and their dog. His poems appear in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Atlanta Review, Tar River Poetry, Louisiana Literature, The Cape Rock, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Winter Skin, was published in 2016 by Main Street Rag Publishing. His first full collection, What Once Burst With Brilliance, is forthcoming from Iris Press in 2018.

Friday, December 1, 2017

After Paris

They enter like rabbits into a snare 
of plexiglass where conviction hovers 
as cartoonish as a rain cloud soaking 
them into a frigid shiver that shakes 
salt and pepper into their whiskered chins. 

Theirs is a pain that comes and goes 
and floats like a yogi. It preoccupies 
their minds and covers our steel-toed 
boots with doubts about progress 
as we flee loudly south to a place 
I’ve never been before.

I used to know exactly 
who frightened me, until now. 
I always felt I was at their expense 
and friendship sounded nice. Indented, 
fleshy as the knots on my thick heavy head,

they tumbled down the roof into the neighbor’s 
yard long enough to awaken me into something 
akin to kinship, something that would take a hundred 
years to fully melt away, something that seems 
so slow in going.

Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)
(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, November 24, 2017

Poems I Admire #44

Memorizing Darkness

They remembered how she lay all day
Facedown on the bed after the sheriff’s knock
And then arose to reset the clock of her life.
Could she ever forget? Of course not.
Retold, the mind paints a scene
Even more vivid. How the cattle guard
Traps the wagon, the gunshots ringing
And there he is running and firing
His dark eyes wide as when they made love.

Memory: the stone door that locks on
An image forever, a bloodstain that can’t
Be scrubbed. The lies we’re told: how home is where
When you go there, they have to take you in.
Or that you can’t go home. As if anything
Will ever be the same. As if a stall means safety.
Ghost horses screaming in the flames.

First appeared in THAT Literary Review

Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, Midwestern Gothic and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 20 books including "Selected Poems” from FutureCycle Press which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize and “Ribcage” from Glass Lyre Press which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Three of her poems have been featured on Verse Daily and another is among the winners of the 2016 Atlanta Review International Poetry Contest. Her newest books are “Carnival” from FutureCycle Press and “The Seven Heavenly Virtues” from Kelsay Books. Her next book “Her Heartsongs" will be published by Presa Press in 2018. Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Good Works Review. Website: Facebook: Joan Colby. Twitter: poetjm.

Friday, November 17, 2017


One was a ball-buster; a lusty see-through blouse
firmly nippled and slightly off-white, knotted
just above her pierced tan midriff exposed so low
it might have been hard to see the way her red skirt
led straight to the flesh of her thighs – except they
were her thighs, and she was a goddess.

The other was a head full of wit and the wry, dry
vocabulary of one dismissive glance after another;
a reading-glasses-on-a-chain-wearing emasculation
who kept a black and well-oiled Saturday night special
tucked in the way down deep of her soft leather handbag,
stripped from the hides of every man she’d ever tanned.

They were two ends of the very same sisterhood,
a spectral pretending that day after day neither one
cared that she knew everything there was to know
about living all alone.

First appeared in Chiron Review - Issue 108

Friday, November 10, 2017

Poems I Admire #43

Lunch on the Way Home from Children’s  
Don Colburn

When our charburgers didn’t come,  
Becca set the book of matches down exactly  
for kickoff and taught me the waiting game.
Finger off thumb, one flick, and the matchbook
slid spinning across the dark shellac
into my lap. I sent it skidding back,
dared it to hang off the edge just short
of plunging over. Isn’t that the goal
even when you’re not sixteen?
If any part of the matchbook stuck out
past the rim – touchdown, six points.
Sometimes she’d shake salt
to slicken the field, make things more
dicey. No matter where my shot landed,
Becca laughed as if she could forget
the MRI and what was growing.
Losing 12 to 6, I plucked
an ice cube from my glass
and flicked and she cried “Whoa-ho!”
as it sailed unstoppable over the edge.
I still see the love of mischief
in those eyes, so close to happy.

From As if Gravity Were a Theory

Don Colburn is a poet and retired newspaper reporter in Portland, Oregon. He has published four poetry collections, most recently a chapbook called Tomorrow Too: The Brenda Monologues. His poems have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, and won the Discovery/The Nation Award, the Finishing Line Press Prize and the Cider Press Review Book Award. During his newspaper career, he was a reporter for The Washington Post and The Oregonian, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in feature writing.

Friday, November 3, 2017

But Billy Loves Betsy

If Billy’d pulled just one more C instead of learning to endure
the odor fatigue of citrus degreaser or the rattling of torque wrenches

and air-compressors, maybe he and Betsy would have figured out
how to pretend cactus flowers and hoot owls are fancy. Some men

and many terrified wives end their despair with spoonfuls of fate
that always come out wrong, disfigured as a train-tracked penny –

thinned and spent as the rest us. Tears, biting lips, sharing the rut
in the middle of their king sized bed, addictions to strong coffee,

and letting others know all about their spooning into deep sleep –
despite the scratches on their backs – are all artifacts, the remains

of something civilized, a twisted and warped ruin that stays as lovely,
somehow, as anyone willing to name whatever shape that may be.

Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)
(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, October 27, 2017

Poems I Admire #42

Mrs. God
Connie Wanek

Someone had to do the dirty work,
spading the garden, moving mountains,
keeping the darkness out of the light,
and she took every imperfection personally.

Mr. Big Ideas, sure,
but someone had to run the numbers.
Then talk about babies: he never imagined
so many.

That was part of his charm, of course,
his frank amazement at consequences,
the pretty songs he gave the finches:
those spoke to his

innocence, his ability to regard
every moment as fresh. “Let’s give them
free will and see what happens,”
he said, ever the optimist.

First appeared in upstreet

Connie Wanek has been writing since her hand could hold a pencil. She is the author of four books of poetry, including Rival Gardens: New and Selected Poems (University of Nebraska Press). It's the second book in the Ted Kooser Contemporary Poetry Series. She is also the author of a book of prose called Summer Cars, published in 2014 by Will o' the Wisp Books.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sir Loin

I fed him every morning before school
and knew from the start how it’d all end,
hence the name – insurance against love.

I’d shake the feed can at the barn
and the rough scrape of grain against metal
would produce a charge along the path,

a snorting, and the kind of drool that falls
to the ground in viscous threads of greed.
Every day this, until the sudden last day

with its usual bucket-and-grain shake
followed by his everyday rush. This time, though,
he was not only met with a bucketful sweet oats –

there was also a gun,
a bullet to the head,
the thud of dead weight.

It’s been a lifetime since then, and, still, I see it – 
the hard packed path, the charge, the drool, the head wag.
I hear the crack of the rifle fire. Watch the total collapse.

Not long after, I met that one girl with the blue eyes –
the way she smiled with them.

First appeared in Chiron Review - Issue 108

Friday, September 8, 2017

Poems I Admire #41

Air Brakes
Michael Istvan

Soon he will climb the steps of the school bus
and be thinking nothing of me. So young,
and hooked to me as he is now, though, even
when my son is mad at me or just moody
that morning, he is sure to take a window seat
where I can see him in profile from the doorstep.
And from under his hiding hoodie his eyes,
barely perceptible through the tint, will cut
toward mine at the lunging hiss of the air brakes.

First appeared in THAT Literary Review

M. A. ISTVAN JR., PhD, whose life is to his poetry what Caravaggio’s life is to his painting, has been a university instructor for a decade. His susceptibility to complete abandon in the classroom, which enables him to confess even deep secrets to his students.

You can also contact the good doctor here...

Friday, September 1, 2017

On Depression and Mind-Altering Drugs

Man-made chemical reactions fire at neurons
like it’s target practice and carnie-calls before falling
into a dunk tank and being swept neatly out of Kansas

to somewhere north of Oz near a dark and Aliceless wonderland.
They climb into bed with you, warm you like bread crumbs leading
to a rusty gas pump where, for pennies on the paper dollar, they fix

the broken window in the hay loft and every chip in every china bowl.
You read books until dreams slip off and the sun goes down deep inside
the wet core of your red and white lace. The sleeping is as good

as sleeping ever gets, but the waking part is hard – it’s oven-roasted
tomatoes under a hard bed of garlic neglect that turns your ease
into rattlesnake fang. There’s a fuzzy buzzing humming in the center

of your whisky-flask brain, now emptied of inebriation and sass.
There’s a buzzing fuzz inside the coke bottle glasses of your bloodshot eyes.
There’s knowing there’s nothing, and there’s knowing no one else knows.

Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)
(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)

Friday, August 25, 2017

Poems I Admire #40

The Velvet Peaches of August
Penelope Schambly Schott

When stars rise over the mountain,
fruit gleams in the half-picked orchard.

As I wait for you among velvet peaches,
I stand in darkness on their bruised flesh.

Sweetness. Sweetness gathers like bees
at the mouth of juice. I meant to want you,

yes, but never this much.

From “May the Generations Die in the Right Order.”

Penelope Scambly Schott’s two new books are Bailing the River, a collection about what can and can’t be done, and Serpent Love: A Mother-Daughter Epic, poems about a difficult period in her relationship with her adult daughter and the daughter’s essay in response. Penelope lives in Portland and Dufur, Oregon where she teaches an annual poetry workshop.

Friday, August 18, 2017

On Hatred and a Sister’s Glare

I saw her green eyes glare.
Cindy’s eyes. My little sister. My Irish twin.
Not little now.

Grown and glaring with a glare that hurt
for the hurt it craved. A jaded rage
lush with a need

for gnawing gristle while glaring
the way hatred turns into something matter-like,
an emerald beam of heat and slicing.

She’d assumed that man had died, but
he lived – lacking legs, a working bladder,
memory. Nevertheless, alive.

So she glared at me, her Irish twin,
for being unaware
that this was such bad, bad news.

First appeared in The Main Street Rag

Friday, August 11, 2017

Poems I Admire #39

Dear Mom

My old body shuffles absently
through these cluttered rooms.
I’m older than you when you died.

Owl murmur weaves through
a shaky, dark wind tonight.
There is so much unsaid.

Your muted love was never
enough to fill jagged wounds,
turned now to lovely scars.

I am exiled to a frozen land,
but the winter sun lightens
my scars, rekindles my love

& I am a smiling child again.
This is no convenient copout
& not a classical suppression.

Dear Mom, the sun is afire
like the place I suspect we will
meet up at. I love you still. 

First appeared in San Pedro River Review

Adrian C. Louis grew in northern Nevada and is an enrolled member of the Lovelock Paiute Tribe. From 1984-97, Louis taught at Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He recently retired as Professor of English at Minnesota State University in Marshall. His most recent book of poems is Random Exorcisms (Pleiades Press, 2016). More info at

Thursday, August 3, 2017

All the Heat I Have

Watching the crush of a sick yellow foam
from a sandy blanket whose grit we ignore,
we spin inside daytime dreams like the eerie

twirl of twilight as it dares to climb all the way
to the top just to watch us sink. We drift, oblivious

to better names, to warmth, to a history lacking
fables in which we feign regret. We acquiesce, always,
like half-opened parachutes finding their way

to the top of the ocean’s bottom, like tuxedoed escorts
wearing plaster smiles, like the rattling deep inside

that we can never let admit your love of cigarettes –
the taste, the red tip, the red-stained end, the blood-black tar
that sticks me to you and lets you take all the heat I have.

Included in my chapbook "The Allness of Everything" (Maverick Duck Press)
(To learn more about "The Allness of Everything," click here.)