April 2023 | poetry
Tombstone, AZ, 1884
Beneath a black wool hood
the hanged man grins, his breath
hissing through clenched teeth
like steam from a waiting locomotive.
When the trap door dropped
he’d felt his weight plunge. Yet here
he is, hovering between crossbeam
and dirt, the day earth’s gravity changed.
He wonders if he’s dreaming
until he hears frantic whinnies
of horses outside the saloon
floating where they were hitched.
He feels a weight has been lifted,
that the trap door opened on a new life.
A startling moment for anyone, no doubt.
To be relieved of the reflux from long
festering regrets, the memories that
nail your shoes to the floor. Imagine
never being tormented by your
personal stage coach heist, whatever
it might be. To be cut down from
the gallows and walk away. To slap
the past’s dust from your jeans.
You’ll find Ken Hines’ poems in AIOTB, Psaltery & Lyre, Vita Poetica, Rockvale Review and other magazines. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, his poem “Driving Test” won Third Wednesday Journal ‘s annual poetry prize. He lives in Virginia with his wife, the painter Fran Hines.
April 2023 | poetry
One morning, I found two
Varied Thrush dead, laying side by side
outside the greenhouse.
It was as if they dived into love and it killed them.
That glass house, was the only place that
felt like home to you.
I’d watch you through the window tenderly
bed broken leaves of succulents into pots
the size of your thumbs.
I believed in signs, warnings of things to come.
At its door overnight sprouted
translucent Indian Pipes.
They rose out of the crumbly soil
like alien question marks or ruffled
ended shepherds staffs.
It was as if they asked, do you know who I am,
will you love me like you loved the rose or lily,
will you pick me, vase me,
or will you discard me wary that
I may poison you
with my strange ways.
One night you came through the door
with a waltz playing on your phone.
You placed it on the coffee table,
taking me up into your arms,
dancing me around the living room
and time felt infinite, this yes, this.
Later you stood at the foot of the bed
and announced like a school boy
that you wanted to sing a song for me.
When you did, a thousand pieces of my heart
gathered together for the first time in my life,
stirring you into my forever.
Sometimes at night, I still want your back
your hip, freckled shoulders, sandy colored skin,
the way you’d say ‘tuck in tight’
and I’d place my face into the warmth
between your shoulder blades wondering
if you were starting to turn
away, if you had met her, someone better,
if you were dreaming of her younger landscape
not the old desert of me.
I was a child in a fairy tale believing if you left
and came back, left and came back then you’d realize
I was the best and that you were for me and I for you.
You told me the first time you saw
my photo you fell in love
with my sadness.
When you loved me all my sadness disappeared.
When you would leave me it returned.
How many times did you create my sadness
to love me again? I did not count.
I only know you finally found someone else
who’s sadness was more beautiful than mine.
J.V. Foerster is a three-time Pushcart nominated poet. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines including Cirque, Amethyst Review, Quartet, The Field Guide Magazine, The Bluebird Word, The Fiery Scribe, Eclectica, Furrow edition from Green Ink Press, Loch Raven Review, Agnieszka’s Dowry, Midnight Mind, Premiere Generation Ink, Fickle Muse, Oak Bend Review, Fox Chase Review, to name just a few. She has work in Orchard Lea Anthology, and in a Rosemont College Anthology. She was a finalist in an Oprelle Poetry Contest and received a First Honorable mention in the Oregon Poetry Association Members Only contest. She has a book, “Holy Mess of a Girl” forthcoming from Kelsay Books. J.V. is also a published painter and photographer. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.
April 2023 | poetry
Why must everyone mumble?
I read lips, but peering at a soft-talker
across a cave-dark room, his mouth
concealed by a jungle of facial hair…
I feel like a doomed glacier— shrinking.
My husband tosses his stained shirt on a chair.
I glance at him in the bathroom mirror, remind him,
You aren’t alone, as I pluck gray hairs
from my comb. I shed like a Persian cat.
Bones as brittle as yesterday’s toast.
I’ve shrunk three inches in height,
lost core-strength, grip-strength, memory.
Not just names—even simple words,
common phrases. Has my brain gone soft
like some worn-out bicycle tire?
Ten years from now, will I recognize
my own children, recall where I came from?
If you call my name, will I look up?
For decades I made hand-thrown pottery,
pressed my fingerprints onto vases, teapots, mugs.
Fired to white heat, my pots emerged from the flames
dressed in colors of sun-baked canyons, moon-lit lakes.
Historic artifacts, our pottery outlasts us.
Now I work at my keyboard— archeologist
on a dig into my buried past.
Johanna DeMay grew up in Mexico City, the bilingual child of American parents. In love with the power of language, she began writing poems to bridge the gap between her worlds. Resettled in New Mexico, she made her living for forty years as a studio potter. Now retired, she divides her time between writing and volunteering with the immigrant community. Her poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and two anthologies. “Waypoints,” a full collection of her work, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2022.
April 2023 | poetry
Search for Wordle.
Search for five-letter words that begin with s-l-o.
Search for ways for this day to begin with a win.
Search for the name of the black-feathered birds
with flaming red and yellow wings
perched outside the window
whose call vibrates the air
and shakes something loose inside you.
Search for the length of cherry blossoms blooms.
Search for meditation apps.
Search for quiet moments before
the world begins to stir.
Search for resources for aging parents.
Search for nourishing meals during chemo.
Search for protein shakes.
Search for your father’s will to fight.
Search for activities for people with dementia.
Search for large-print puzzle books.
Search for recognition in your mother’s eyes.
Search for quick dinner ideas.
Search for shrimp scampi recipes.
Search for Medicare.
Search for bedside rails for seniors.
Search for home-health aides near you.
Search for help.
Search for a deep breath.
Search for air.
Search for more.
Search for time.
Search for more time.
Search for the strength
to keep searching.
Search for presence.
Search to connect.
Search to hold onto the love that gives these moments weight.
Search for your mother’s hand.
Search for the tender palms your tiny fingers
would get lost in as a little girl.
Search to be lost in her again.
Search for the way time has carved countless new lines
but the soft, fleshy creases of her grip
feel the same.
Search for your father’s laugh.
Search for the way it catches in his throat before rushing out,
a whisper before the roar.
Search for the sound of his laughter reverberating through the room
settling heartbeats with its joy-filled rhythms.
Search to be filled by this communion.
Search to lay down your exhaustion
and be resurrected by effortless togetherness.
This sacred togetherness.
Search for highly rated weighted blankets.
Search for NPR book reviews.
Search for the best time of year to plant sunflowers.
Search for garden gnomes.
Search for a season when you can tend to seeds
and watch life come into its prime.
Search for oil pastel drawing ideas.
Search for natural hair tutorials on YouTube.
Search for why fireflies flicker.
Search for bioluminescent fish.
Search for light.
Search for reminders of the world outside these walls.
Search for glimpses of yourself.
Search for tiny moments
that are yours alone.
Search for wonder
Kimberly Goode is a writer based in Seattle, WA. When she is not creating, she enjoys listening to the songs of birds and the sounds of rain. Her work has appeared in River Teeth, Crosscut, Dillydoun Review, and South Seattle Emerald.
April 2023 | poetry
Having ousted all rivals, I take possession
of suburban hostas and road-running squirrels,
and strike rare birds from recorded histories
of ponds. It is time to decommission causeways
now that the marshes have flaked. I design
the cities higher and higher on softening
foundations. I stack the insecurities of wealth,
and endorse both its guardians and armed
intruders. Whenever I like, I lift the streets
to patch the gas lines. I manage a land of millet
ground under a thumb into flour deflowered
by wind, and reroute buckets of effluvia
to a shrinking lake. I pilot the riverboats
that navigate waters between snipered cliffs,
and transport every iteration of spoiled fruit.
I standardize dejection marooned on a rugged
portage, and refit the ships that lost the Pacific
to microscopic plastic. I host a ceremonial dance
of cleats and hatchets that blends ecstatic worship
with the infant mortality rate. I beset the ancient
temples with mudslides. I put minor holidays
up for auction, and unclasp obligations so they fall
like fistfuls of worry beads. I am default, the very
last god who speaks the vernacular language.
Alan Elyshevitz is the author of a collection of stories, The Widows and Orphans Fund (SFA Press), a full-length poetry collection, Generous Peril (Cyberwit), and four poetry chapbooks, most recently “Mortal Hours” (SurVision). Winner of the James Hearst Poetry Prize from North American Review, he is a two-time recipient of a fellowship in fiction writing from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.
April 2023 | poetry
This town has a rusted roof gas station,
a store shelf where you would find
charm and shame sitting side-by-side,
as inseparable as lovebugs,
buy-one-get-one for the last 50 years.
You can still buy a scratcher ticket – or twelve,
and sit, welcomed, on the sidewalk
with your dreams of a less-debted life,
or watch as barefoot beauties walk west to work,
carrying babies bulging with
Dollar General budget-nutrition.
Don’t forget your manners if you’re just visitin’,
one proper and polite nod to say,
“just like my daddy did,”
to all those with their collars blue
just like the sky-paint on the gulf.
“Poor, rural, and southern”,
is meant by most
to sound scary and scabbed
just like the shallow intimidation
of pitbull pups scratching and slobbering
against their chain-link boundary lines.
But to me it sure looks a lot like
lovin’ and learnin’ that the things
worth having take the most time,
saturating slowly like sun tea
brewin’ in the porch-pitcher.
I spent a decade patting makeup
onto the warm red tones of my neck
to conceal a crime of culture,
instead of questioning
why moving up
had to mean moving away.
These memories had a lesson for me,
like a neighbor pulling my ear
back to my mother for new wisdom,
chastising me for talking to strangers,
forgetting my manners,
and not listening to my father.
These memories are like mangrove mud,
hugging my ankles until I am stalled,
anchoring me to mindfulness of a moment
tinged with something sour,
like that sulfuric smell across the marshes,
that is hard to romanticize – yet still cues a smile,
when its rotten earthiness tells me that I am home.
It is only in this pause,
the stillness before a shifting tide,
when I can clearly recall and recite
the scripture –
the allegory of me,
and where it was written.
It was composed here;
In the nimble thank you wave,
at a neighbor kind or neglectful enough
to turn an eye as I swiped citrus slices
from yard overhangs,
to rub into my vulgar mouth,
with dirty hands.
On the sweet-wind steeped from
magnolia blooms and orange blossoms,
the perfect perfume to compliment
a blushing heat-sick face.
It was spoken over the rumble of thunder,
during the can’t-miss primetime storm watch,
hurricane season 2004,
sung with the intoxicating breaths
of the gulf stream,
scented with pheromonic petrichor.
They say that one man’s white trash
is another’s treasured upbringing,
and through the catharsis of return,
a lowbrow renaissance,
I know both to be true.
My only infallible faith is in the
beauty visible from the gutter,
and I will celebrate each day
in the midst of a perennial
like the Christmas lights draped
on fences, roofs, and trailer tops,
hanging on with staple-gun hugs,
all year ‘round.
Elizabeth Curley lives a dual life as both a poet and a social work researcher. Elizabeth received a Silver Medal from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards in 2012 and is still writing a decade later. Elizabeth’s time is spent consuming, collecting, carrying, crafting, and quantifying the human experience.
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