Apologia for the Undeniable

Baby, baby, baby, light my way. In Anno Domini 1991, that lyric

was universally liked. Liked like butter is liked. And what’s the deal

with spider eyes anyway? And why is it considered weird to go to the zoo

by yourself? None of these things seem contradictory. Or an appropriation.

Or approximate. Or anti-anything. Sweet multiplicity. Sweet butter and honey.

 

Todd Copeland

Todd Copeland’s poems have appeared in The Journal, Southern Poetry Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, California Quarterly, The Dalhousie Review, Christianity & Literature, and Sugar House Review, and his essays have been published in Literary Imagination, JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory, and Media, War & Conflict, among other publications. A native of Ohio, he lives in Waco, Texas.

Heather Bourbeau

Smoke

 

“I do not see the need to burn the houses of those slaughtered;

everything has already been taken,” I say over strong tea and thick porridge.

My colleague says I will not make a good bandit, that I do not understand the effectiveness

of hideous acts to achieve future obedience. And I wish that were true.

 

In this dust and smoked-filled harmattan night, with a moon blood orange and near full,

my breath is shallow. I cannot avoid the greedy sucking of shisha by expats—

some false sophistication of those closer to death by lungs marked and rotting,

like my grandfather’s at the sallow, emaciated end, despite decades free from the habit.

 

Before me, one man swims laps methodically. Up and down the middle of the pool.

Hardly a ripple. His broad back barely rising to allow his mouth to draw in air.

His arms deep beneath him to glide scarcely seen. The thick water calls me, to dive, to crawl,

to sink into oxygen free of carbon, to savor moments free of fumes and dust and pain.

 

 

Wolves

 

In Guam, invasive tree snakes invent a new way to slither.

Good news for their survival;

bad for nesting starlings.

 

In Washington, men with furs and Molotovs storm the Capitol.

Coddlers and goaders slowly renounce them,

try to make themselves palatable in the new light.

 

In my garden, overrun with green,

a juvenile stag, nubs where horns will be,

curls himself to sleep. Back so thin I count each vertebrae.

 

They become a rosary. Hail Marys replaced with silent thanks

as I breathe with this deer, safe here and now from wildcats,

as the hummingbird circles for sage.

 

Heather Bourbeau

Heather Bourbeau’s work has appeared or will appear in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, The MacGuffin, Meridian, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and SWWIM. She is the winner of La Piccioletta Barca’s inaugural competition and the Chapman Magazine Flash Fiction winner and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia.

Coming home: carnival

Love makes the wheels go round— as in, your heart is a vehicle

conveyed through small towns, worn-out suitcase you drag, only

stopping at the fair for pickled eggs, magenta jar of luck & hope.

Those tiny bobbing heads, kraken, sailors tell themselves at night.

 

Here, the Ferris wheel is broken down and all the lights look dim,

forsaken while you wander round the same dirt path. The clam

booth steams just like the sea— though you’re in Pennsylvania.

The pie ladies are smiling from their perch which smells like pine.

 

It’s been redone, still lemon, apple, rhubarb, they preach & hum.

Renounce, renounce & have a slice. Because the night, because

you’re home & you’re redeemed. Beside the swings, you halt.

See someone you used to know; he is old, does not see you.

 

That chartreuse light of August glowed just beyond the ballfield

when you first came. Now the hawkers at the candy apple stand

put on their lights & all the games draw in the younger crowd.

You pitch dimes in old thin jars, try to win back the family name.

 

Then the Ferris wheel begins to turn and soon the fireworks will

parachute chrysanthemums into the dark. One year when you

were young, you were stuck at the top with a boy you liked.

Kids waved thin sparklers on the hill like dots of fireflies.

 

Hello, hello, you want to shout. Remember me? But no one

yells.  And no one comes to sit near you. The carnival man

jerks his finger. You are next. He clamps you down in metal.

You ride in huge moist circles, your heart lurching at the top.

 

Ellen Stone

Ellen Stone advises a poetry club at Community High School and co-hosts a monthly poetry series, Skazat! in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she raised three daughters with her husband.  She is the author of What Is in the Blood (Mayapple Press, 2020) and The Solid Living World (Michigan Writers’ Cooperative Press, 2013).  Ellen’s poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.  Reach Ellen at ellenstone.org.

Reception Immediately Following

Come in come in I’m so glad

you could come how good

to see you I’m fine thanks just fine

lunch is laid out in the dining room

 

let’s open the wine

 

so we can enjoy ourselves

take your plate into the garden

the lilies she planted last fall

have just come into bloom

 

yes lovely

 

do take a second helping

I gave the caterers her special recipe

have another glass of wine

the music was beautiful

 

wasn’t it

 

she helped plan everything

that was our niece who sang

marvellous voice I’m fine

 

really fine everything

just like she’d wanted

wonderful

to see you let’s have a hug

 

do stay a bit

we’ll all go out to dinner

there’s a great place

we used to

 

thanks so much

for coming, goodbye yes

it went well

so nice

 

you could come

get together soon

you’re the last

wish

you could stay

I’ll walk you to your car

fine

 

love you

fine

give us a kiss

 

until                 fine

later of course

I’m fine

thanks

just fine

 

Ruth Bavetta

Ruth Bavetta’s poems have appeared in Rattle, Nimrod, North American Review, Tar River Poetry, Slant, American Journal of Poetry, and many other journals and anthologies. Her fifth book will be published in 2022. She has been an Associate Editor for Good Works Review and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize.

Tell Me Who I Am

Some days I don’t recognize myself—when

I step from the shower and catch a glimpse

of my face clouded with steam

 

and all I have from all of my yesterdays is

a smudge on an old polaroid—as if a pair of bees

could remember themselves out of honeycomb,

 

having fallen to the ground—I don’t know

who I am, not just the story of who I am—

the secrets I need answers to are watching

 

from the cedar-limbs by a pair of blackbirds

hidden in snow.  Even the cupboards could hold

a gentle sheen or a soft glow, as if

 

a chain of memories could be mended, once

broken, when the moonlight pierces the reeds

and paints the sea the muddled green of grief.

 

If I chose to tread through this endlessness,

I’d start to imagine waves crashing and then

slowly molding a long white beach—

 

How do we hold ourselves against the abyss?

 

 

Eric Stiefel

Eric Stiefel is a Cuban-American Ph.D. candidate at Ohio University, though he received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, where he also served as the 2017-2018 Junior Poetry Fellow. Eric was named the winner of the 2018 Sequestrum New Writer Awards and a finalist in the 2018 Penn Review Poetry Prize and the 2020 Third Coast Poetry Contest. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Apple Valley Review, Prism Review, The Literary Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Frontier Poetry, and elsewhere.

On Frairy Street

She peels gum from the sidewalk,

pops it in her mouth, ignores the grit.

There is some sweetness left.

 

Skip and chew, skip and chew,

she gloats to herself—sure that none

of her siblings had gum today.

 

She once heard her mother say—

Don’t ever swallow gum or it’ll stay

in your stomach for seven years.

 

Seven plus seven—I’ll be fourteen then.

 

* * *

 

Tonight for dinner, again they pick

dandelions in the backyard, catch

crayfish from the brook.

 

She eats the bitter salad. Refuses the meat.

For dessert—she retrieves her gum

from beneath the table.

 

The sweetness is gone.

She thinks of another place to stick it—

on a park bench, the apple tree trunk,

 

the tar-coated telephone pole—

because she can’t swallow it.

She just can’t.

 

Seven years is a long time.

 

Lisa J. Sullivan

Lisa J. Sullivan holds an MFA in Poetry from the Solstice Low-Residency MFA Program at Pine Manor College, where she was a Kurt Brown Memorial Fellow. Her work has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, The Comstock Review, Puckerbrush Review, and elsewhere. Her ekphrastic piece “To the Bog of Allen” was selected as the United States Winner of the 2013 Ireland Poetry Project contest in collaboration with the Academy of American Poets. She is an associate editor for Lily Poetry Review Books and a poetry editor for Pink Panther Magazine.

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