Let me tell you

Plug Nickel and Red Cent

met on museum steps and, inside,

mysticked with blue innocent Della Robbia,

rhythmed the light-shine white

of beyond, above, bright,

orisoned warm-milk fired clay, like flesh,

god-child in supple mother embrace.

Sigh of centuries.

 

Out straight west, they drove

their wood-paneled station wagon,

out past the 30-hundreds, the 40-hundreds,

nearly to the 52-hundreds

on the table-top Chicago grid,

out to Leamington to meet the gray-pants boy,

sitting on front porch steps, in full view — a

white-red-striped t-shirt buzz-cut good-boy,

out from inside, away, at large,

watching ant-gang heft cornbread crumbles

except this one alone, down sidewalk square

to an insect Promised Land.

 

He looked up at the two men,

vaguely priestly, vaguely outlawed,

said: “I’m looking to flee captivity

for the sin I don’t recall committing.”

 

“We’re guilty, too,” they said, and

the three walked to afternoon church,

for Stations of the Cross,

flaming altar candles, up, reaching always up,

echoes, shuffling, Latin abracadabras,

plainsong up, incense up from censor,

from burning coal, straining up,

cloud of unknowing, cloud of Mount Sinai,

cloud of breathing and not breathing.

 

After Amen, the three split up

and went home by a different path.

Patrick T. Reardon

Patrick T. Reardon, a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of ten books, including the poetry collections Darkness on the Face of the Deep (Kelsay) and Requiem for David (Silver Birch Press) as well as Faith Stripped to Its Essence, a literary-religious analysis of Shusaku Endo’s novel Silence. His poetry has appeared in America, Rhino, Main Street Rag, The Write Launch, Meat for Tea, Under a Warm Green Linden and many others. His book Puddin: The Autobiography of a Baby, a Memoir in Prose-poems is forthcoming from Third World Press.

Fingers

The Autumn leaves of the maple tree

died. Standing at the tired roots, the basement pottery wheel still spinning,

I vulnerably vowed that the red finger with a long nail growing out of your eardrum

sliced the “I” in half and stuck the pieces back together sideways

into an “H,” that you heard something about hell

when I said something about us.

 

What always changes

doesn’t. Faithful, I parted my lips to release

the substance of things,                                                           “You (mis)heard me.”

and you heard everything

but one wor(l)d.

 

Words are creative fingers that slither

in throats, striving for vomit

or to make all things new,

trustworthy and

(                       ).

 

They are in skulls, nyctinastic,

ready to flick a new Gaia

back into the light, out of three tunnels,

where the power of life and death can rest in peace

as sound.

 

You didn’t hear                                                            (“It’s not over”)

again. Angry, you were not obligated to listen,

and it was Christian for me to apologize

for your deafness, for lacking a miracle—

out of love.

 

You thought the fingers were mine, for they were made

in my image. I should have spoken

outside the house we shaped children in

as a stranger, for everyone hears correctly

what matters not. Central,

I should have said that I hated you.

After promises of affection, wondrously,

you would have finally heard

what wasn’t hard to believe

 

and been free to live

with a sliced extremity                                     floating within.

 

Now, far apart, I hope that bits don’t grow like maple seeds

or letters that could float in dark, deep, and cerebrospinal waters

and bump-merge in(to) inner speech,

but rather that fragments miraculously become

that which never existed—nothing—

metaphoric parentheses which do not suggest “fill in,”

a hope which can only be desired if

the hope is lost. At the very least,

is it wrong to think (and think and think)

wor(l)ds could be noise?

 

O.G. Rose

A finalist for the 2020 UNO Press Lab Prize and 46th Pushcart Nominee, Rose’s creative works appear at The Write Launch, Allegory Ridge, Streetlight Magazine, Ponder Review, Iowa Review online, The William and Mary Review, Assure Press, Toho Journal online, West Trade Review, ellipsis, Poydras Review, O:JA&L, and Broken Pencil.

Delphic Blues

No bright fruit now seems to hang for us,

we who never really saw a garden

or tasted anything to draw us to

the spinning core inside all seeds

or dormant roots coiled in their depths.

 

No taut reins seem to move us now

with unbearable symmetry

vexed equilibrium, balancing

apples, oranges with flights of swifts,

all out of place, but looking artful at first.

 

And what of this still whispers

through our bones, multilingual, falsetto

off ancient tongues, naming things over again

under the shade of knives, belated

breath pulsed out from hearts of wind?

 

What use is there in speaking now

when nothing here is reconciled;

not trees or endless streams,

nor wild geese in circling flight,

with what’s beneath the frozen ground?

 

Roberta Senechal de la Roche

Roberta Senechal de la Roche, Professor Emerita at Washington and Lee University, is an historian, sociologist, and poet of Miꞌkmaq and French Canadian descent, born in western Maine. She now lives in the woods outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. Her poems have appeared in the Colorado Review; Vallum; Glass: A Journal of Poetry; Yemassee, and Cold Mountain Review, among others. She has two prize-winning chapbooks: Blind Flowers (Arcadia Press) and After Eden (Heartland Review Press, 2019). A third chapbook, Winter Light, and her first book, Going Fast (2019) are published by David Robert Books.

Mothers

Dead twelve years, dusty in a drawer

of my heart, like the leaf insects and giant earwigs

in the basement of a natural history museum.

A tiny figurine, still wearing a tattered terrycloth robe,

still holding a glass, although the ice melted long ago.

My no-idea-how-to-love-a-child mother.

My prefer-a-drink-to-playing-with-my daughter mother.

 

Sometimes late at night I hear her stir, accusing

me of stealing her silver or hiding her sapphire

rings, of not visiting, not calling, not caring,

threatening to beat me with her bristled brush

or toss me out like leftover broccoli and I curl up shaking,

chills shooting my spine, reaching for my stuffed bear

with its bald spots and chewed ear.

 

Sometimes I hear her weeping for the husband

who wasn’t, the infant who didn’t, for the child

she once was, beaten with the belt

of her father, the fists of her mother,

for the little girl wearing wool sweaters

in summer to hide swelling bruises.

If the figure were any larger, it would break my heart.

 

Like five loaves and three fishes feeding

five thousand on the shores of Galilee,

like free-flowing ambrosia, the ethereal food

of the gods feasting in gold and marble palaces,

you can swallow grief forever

and still there will be plenty left

in the dry basement where memories linger.

Claire Scott

Claire Scott is an award-winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and Until I Couldn’t. She is the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

Snyder, Texas

Apache Indians hunt the buffalo.

Comanche arrive on the war trail to Mexico,

the Apaches disappear.

On the staked plain, a sacred white buffalo waters at Deep Creek.

A hunter shoots the albino with ease

and skins it as tumbleweeds tumble by.

Pete from Pennsylvania opens a trading post.

Big cattle ranches arrive.

Rusty untangles a hung up goat.

Barb wire cuts into its neck.

Nearby, a mare nudges its foal.

The Santa Fe Railroad lays tracks through town

and builds a depot, and men warm themselves

by a fire of burning crossties.

The Snyder Rodeo Arena opens.

Overseas, Snyder’s son Bobby orders his men across a canal.

Bobby is fatally hit by enemy fire.

Farmers plant cotton in cow pastures.

The bank folds in the Great Depression.

Friday night football begins,

Snyder Tiger adolescents become heroes.

A prospector discovers the Canyon Oil Reef,

the town triples in size.

A Phillips 66 gas station-restaurant opens.

Powers Boothe flees Snyder, acts in movies.

Oil collapses. Money leaves.

A boy falls asleep watching a Zenith television

in a small frame house on 3765 Avondale.

A dung beetle rolls a ball of dung

on a scraggly cattle ranch at town the edge.

The citizens erect a white buffalo statue.

They argue about its testicles, remove them.

A rich man parks a gold-plated Delorean

in the Snyder National Bank lobby.

An employee at the gas plant claims a UFO hovers,

a disc with lights, soars to the southwest.

Tumbleweeds ramble across the fields into mesquite.

The wind reveals an arrowhead in a creek bed.

Down the dirt lane where huge wind turbines line the horizon,

the white buffalo skin hangs on a ranch house wall, decays.

Alan Nelson

Alan Nelson has poetry and stories published or forthcoming in numerous journals including New York Quarterly, The Stand, Acumen, Pampelmousse, Main Street Rag, Texas Observer, California Quarterly, Connecticut River Review, Adirondack Review, Red Cedar Review, Wisconsin Review, South Carolina Review, Ligeia and Whale Road Review. He also played the lead in the viral video “Does This Cake Make Me Look Gay?” and the verbose “Silent Al” in the Emmy-winning “SXSWestworld.”

The Old Playground

I’m standing there, looking

at my old grade school’s set

of monkey bars. I can touch them

with my forehead. I almost do,

hoping to go back.

 

But I start to sink,

alternating legs, by inches as

I walk. I run and still sink,

feeling more than hearing

the laughter of the child,

 

grown giant underground,

grabbing hand-over-hand

at my moving feet. I reach

the sidewalk slogging mid-thigh

through earth, and lose both shoes

as I pull myself out.

 

Once should have been enough.

 

Mark Henderson

Mark Henderson is an associate professor of English at Tuskegee University. He earned his Ph. D. at Auburn University with concentrations in American literature and psychoanalytic theory. He has poems published or forthcoming in Cozy Cat Press, From Whispers to Roars, Defenestrationism.net, Bombfire, Former People, Neologism, Broad River Review, Rune Bear, Flora Fiction, Flare, and Visitant. He was born and raised in Monroe, Louisiana, and currently resides in Auburn, Alabama.

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