Deadly Up

A direct hit this time.

Like a Halley’s Comet

coming in 1960 and going out now.

Twain would be proud of the old girl

made of cypress

impervious to nails.

But the river is deadly up

to a line taller than God.

The shallows breathe heavy

stripping palm trees.

The windows are all blown-out

blinds they unfurl to a sky submerged

where gulf water joins

up into the air like being

freed at last

like forever

like gone.

Ward Abel

Ward Abel’s work has appeared in hundreds of journals (Rattle, Versal, The Reader, Worcester Review, Riverbed Review, others), including a nomination for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and he is the author of three full collections and ten chapbooks of poetry, including his latest collection, “The Width of Here” (Silver Bow, 2021). He is a reformed lawyer, he writes and plays music, and he teaches literature. Abel resides in rural Georgia.

Evan Anders

kintsukuroi

 

dalia’s teaching our five-year-old son to prepare chili.

live from npr news, this is windsor johnston.

thirty years ago today, rodney king, then 25, was beaten fifty-six times by baton.

los angeles police stipulated the incident was not racially motivated.

 

1 red pepper

1 green pepper

1 can crushed tomato

1 yellow onion, finely brutalized

 

democrats suggest naming the bill to increase minimum wage “patriot pay.”

republicans say they will nullify the proposal.

 

½ teaspoon oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

2 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 teaspoon granulated sugar

 

“chocolate is our secret ingredient.”

 

saudi crown prince mohammed bin salman will not be penalized

for the assassination of journalist jamal khashoggi.

 

1 can of dark kidney beans

1 can of light kidney beans

pinch of kosher salt

pepper to taste

occasionally stir chili to prevent beans from sticking to crockpot.

cook on low for seven to eight hours.

 

the murder trial of derek chauvin is slated to begin march 8th.

community leaders gathered outside city hall.

“we exist at a critical pivot. injustice uproots civilization.

compassion is limited—enough warfare!

we bear the tears of dead men. man can die, and yes, brother can die.

their empathy does not extend beyond themselves.

their echo chamber glamours cancer.

to say justice is blind is correct.

judges dont consider us.

 

on the patio, slouched in a garden chair, i press two fingers to my lips,

exhaling, flicking air with my thumb.

eduardo, the neighbor, is perfecting saxophone—round midnightby thelonious monk.

ed is having an affair.

after dissolving a domestic dispute, thompson street is relieved that police did not murder
a member of the alejo family.

between my thighs, a hibiscus. i empty the remainder of a water bottle
into her potted soil.

dalia hollers my name, and i enter the kitchen

 

sgt. stacey koon, officer theodore j. briseno, officer timothy wind,

and officer laurence powell were acquitted april 29th, 1992.

king, 47, died father’s day, june 17th, 2012.

jessica biel is thirty-eight.

this is npr.

 

Evan Anders brews coffee for mass consumption in Philadelphia. His poems have appeared in North Dakota Quarterly, Chicago Quarterly Review, decomp journal, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. He is a retired stay-at-home dad who thinks Bob Dylan was best in the eighties. Visit Evan online at www.byevananders.com 

Diana Dinverno

La Traviata at the Vienna Opera House

 

Prelude

The exquisite hush, the overture, and the curtains rise, cue Violetta and her soon-to-be lover, Alfredo, and I wonder how my husband has managed to acquire these coveted seats. I study the audience below, the tiered boxes across the way—women wearing couture, a surprise of silk kimonos, men in tuxedos, satin sashes across their chests. Other performances; stories I’ll never know. An immense chandelier still twinkles in the theatre’s semi-darkness and my mind wanders to our day’s trek across the city, from the boutique hotel where a copy of Klimt’s The Kiss hangs on the bedroom wall, to the nearby stone church, fresh snow on cedar roping, wreathes; streets filled with shoppers; the Café Central, its marble-topped tables once occupied by chess players, Trotsky, and Freud, where we indulge in coffee and chocolate cake—all lush backdrops for tragedy.

Act I

The Hofburg’s verdigris dome rises above the winter residence of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth—Sisi, he called her—and it’s easy to be distracted by soaring ceilings spangled with gilt, parquet floors, the pigeon-blood red dining room where they entertained, rather than the private rooms where Franz Joseph mourned the suicide of their son, Sisi’s brutal end, assassination of his heir, the stilled heart that triggered the First World War, seeded the next, and I glance out the tall windows, see the once flag-draped balcony overlooking Heroes Square, where in ’38, Hitler—who as a youth, shoveled snow so the Emperor and his family could pass, who yearned to follow them into the dazzling ballroom—stood before a crowd, warp and malice disguised in rhetoric, and commanded the good people to forfeit their city, country, to take up hammers, shatter glass to recover what he claimed had been lost.

Act II

We walk to the Museum of Fine Arts with paintings that once shimmered in Shabbos dinner candlelight before being scooped up, along with the candlesticks, by good people now remembered as the führer’s murderers and thieves, yet, I climb the front steps, drawn by Brueghel’s scenes of village life, and a single Vermeer, The Art of Painting, recovered from a salt mine after the war, its ownership disputed as if it were a child in an ugly divorce. I linger, immersed in its luminosity. I have the right to this moment, I tell myself, and try not to think of what was stolen, never to be restored.

Act III

We arrive at Schönbrunn, the summer palace, its gardens and follies now snow covered, where in 1762, six-year-old Mozart, bubbling with joy, performed for Queen Maria Theresa who moved her children across the continent like game pieces, including her fourteen-year-old daughter, Antonia, a budding flute-player, a pawn sacrificed to France, stripped of her name to become Marie Antoinette, forever tagged with a line she never uttered—about cake. Maria Theresa, a mother who never saw what became of her girl. Maria Theresa, an anti-Semite whose strategy was expulsion—unlike the solution favored a hundred and fifty years later by the jackbooted man on that balcony in the splintered heart of Vienna, hand slashing the sky, promising to restore glory, the fate suffered by my cousin, Rochel, smiling from a framed photo, a glimmer of light extinguished at the Stutthof concentration camp when she was nineteen, her winsome brother, shot dead crossing a border, and over thirty other family members caught in the rain of glass. Stories I’ll never know.

Finale

I reach for my husband’s hand. We keep attending these performances beneath prisms dangling above the stage, its streets. Violetta and Alfredo join Verdi’s chorus: Let’s drink from the joyful cups! I savor each bright note because I know what’s ahead. When the curtains fall, the audience will rise from velvet seats and applaud.

Diana Dinverno

Diana Dinverno’s work has appeared in The Gyroscope Review, The Westchester Review, Panoply Magazine, The MacGuffin, and other publications. She is the recipient of the Michigan Poetry Society’s 2019 Margo LaGatutta Memorial Award, the Barbara Sykes Memorial Humor Poem Prize, and the 2022 Chancellor’s Prize. Her work received a nomination for Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net in 2020, and a Pushcart nomination in 2021. Dinverno writes and practices law in Michigan.

The Mother/Strawberries

That hot afternoon you took us to pick strawberries at a truck farm just off Dixie Highway, counting out change for three baskets to fill. The farmer took it and grinned at us in a way that seemed mean to me, but we wanted the berries, and you had used all your money so we could have them. “Ya’ll want some bubble gum?” The farmer pulled a few pieces of Dubble Bubble from his pocket. “I give it to them pickaninnies who work for me. Keeps ‘em from eating my fruit.” I saw that you were looking at him with some kind of revulsion – it crossed your face quickly, but he saw it, too – and then you said, “Thank the man for the offer, girls, even if you don’t want it,” which meant we weren’t to take it, and he looked you up and down, showing you he could look at you like that because you were a woman and what could you do about it, and then he smirked and said, “It’s stoop work. Gotta bend over to get at ‘em,” and you turned away from him and led us out into the field, but you didn’t pick the berries, and I realized that you weren’t going to let him see you bending over, and I saw there was something dark about bending over, and it made me uneasy so that I kept looking back at where he stood watching us, watching you. And I understood that if you bent down to pick a single strawberry, you would lose some battle still unknown to me, and it shamed me. We quickly filled our baskets, and after supper, the berries shined like stained glass on our plates. Now, so many years later, I sometimes think of him, the first man I ever saw leer at a woman, the first time I saw it for what it was. But it wasn’t the first time a man leered at you, was it, and were you thinking of your girls that day, of us growing up, and what that would mean, and were you thinking, Never bend over. Never bend, even though you bent, you bent every day until, at last, you couldn’t bend anymore.

 

Nancy Connors

Nancy Connors is a poet and writer whose work has appeared in Stonecoast Review, failbetter, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, The Phare, Midwest Review and others. She is the recipient of a 2023 Pushcart Prize for her poem, “To Cigarettes.” She lives in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley.

Featured Author: Pamela Wax

Chewing the Five Zen Remembrances

 

               I inherit the results of my actions of body, speech, and mind.

                               the Fifth Remembrance

 

You’re neither Buddhist nor Hindu, but here you are,
kneeling on a zafu, slack-jawed, fighting sleep.

You watch the breath at the center of your universe—nostrils,
diaphragm, belly, expand/deflate like a real yogi, growling.

When the woman next to you squirms, wheezing, old monkey
mind drops upside down from the ceiling, grilling your motives.

You’re there for nirvana, to disgorge the huddled sentries
from their watchtowers in your mind, perhaps a few enlightened

nights of sleep. You want to stand in tree pose without teetering
and to sit cross-legged without cramps. You ruminate

on those Zen fates one by one, a gastronomic ploy to get you
back to basics like unleavened bread: how you’re of the nature

to grow old or ill, to ingest small deaths—losing, always losing—
before the final one, your own. You know you can’t hold on

to anything for dear life, except for these common-sensicals
that rouse you from your torpor, roaring to be welcomed. Mother

gone, father gone, brother, too, gone. You root your feet, stack
your hips, knees, ankles. You drop your shoulders, tailbone.

You’ll play mountain, unfazed by wind or time. You breathe
for five counts in, I, too, am of the nature to die, then empty out,

I must be parted from all I love. On your knees, you extend
your arms, a child’s pose over their graves. You practice tree,

growing roots so you no longer fall. But monkey rattles
your branches each time you nibble at the fifth

of the Upajjhatthana Sutta. It sticks in your craw, breath trapped,
like when your morning prayer, My soul is pure, would make

you gag. Monkey see. Monkey laugh. Monkey-you skeptical
that the crumbs of your deeds—what’s left of you at the final

tally—can turn your monkey self to mensch. Your lungs fill, empty,
doing their business, and you keep chewing to get yourself right.

 

Edible Plant Walk

 

Array sun fern under your
pillow when nightmares trot

unbridled. Down knotweed—
japonica—worthy Samurai

to cross swords with Lyme.
Squeeze jewelweed to detox

poison ivy. Brew creeping
ivy with honey for strep. Steep

Joe Pye weed for gout,
deep breathing, or even fever,

and if you’re Joe, to get it
up for the night shift.

Mugwort—mother of herbs,
perennial, pungent—perverts

the sowing of Joe’s seed,
if you’re female. Or crumble

wild carrot—white, witchy
umbels of Queen Anne’s lace—

on salad to trip up your cycle,
to trick your inner mother.

 

Pamela Wax, an ordained rabbi, is the author of Walking the Labyrinth (Main Street Rag, 2022) and the forthcoming chapbook, Starter Mothers (Finishing Line Press). Her poems have received a Best of the Net nomination and awards from Crosswinds, Paterson Literary Review, Poets’ BillowOberon, and the Robinson Jeffers Tor House. She has been published in literary journals including Barrow Street, About Place Journal, Tupelo Quarterly, Connecticut River Review, Naugatuck River Review, Pedestal, Split Rock Review, Sixfold, and Passengers Journal. She offers spirituality and poetry workshops online from her home in the Northern Berkshires of Massachusetts.

The way it was before

Twice the raccoon attempts its nest,

her scaffolding slides away on a kind wind,

before gathering back into the rock’s hollow

shared with skunks and rivulets.

I am finally permanent and still

water refuses to keep my image. Suppose

my planetary wanderings do not subside. Suppose,

in this rigidity, this paltry wish for gardens

to die and come back different, suppose, Lord,

sick with boredom, that quality I’ve come to recognize

as singular, you finally decide motion lends

a certain excitement to water yet to form a canyon.

And having spoken, your fingers compass the quiet

world and wait for the sputter of change

on the other side of your hands. It’s as if

there never was a voice spurring

change through will, willing the multiplicity

of Animalia, of pollen to lie down in earth.

Nick Visconti

Nick Visconti is a writer living in Brooklyn with an artist, and a cat.

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