I miss the black wrought iron fire escape with its steps
that rattled outside the kitchen window on its way
up to the tenement roof top.
I miss the twin bed next to the kitchen table, where
my mother slept and tried to convince me (and herself)
that it was just like the sleeping alcove in an old Irish cottage.
I miss the washing machine next to the sink
that she camouflaged with a pretty table runner
and a vase of plastic daisies whenever it wasn’t in use.
I miss the contact paper behind the stove that my mother changed
every now and then to convert the cracked plaster walls into
brickwork or wood grain depending on her mood and what was on sale.
I miss it all except the roaches. Not even through nostalgia’s
gauziest lens could I ever miss them. Even now, fifty years later,
I would still tell those roaches to go straight to hell.
Gloria Heffernan’s Exploring Poetry of Presence (Back Porch Productions) won the 2021 CNY Book Award for Nonfiction. She received the 2023 Naugatuck River Review Narrative Poetry Prize. She is the author of the poetry collection, What the Gratitude List Said to the Bucket List, (New York Quarterly Books), and three chapbooks including “Peregrinatio: Poems for Antarctica” (Kelsay Books) which was a finalist for the 2021 Grayson Books Chapbook Prize. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, her work has appeared in over 100 publications including the anthology Poetry of Presence (vol. 2) and Without a Doubt: Poems Illuminating Faith.
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.
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.