Koss, two poems

Koss is a writer and artist with an MFA from SAIC. She has work in or Diode Poetry, Cincinnati Review, Hobart, Spillway, Isacoustic, Spoon River Review (forthcoming), and others. She also has a hybrid book due out in 2020 by Negative Capability Press and work in Best Small Fictions 2020 anthology. Keep up with Koss on Twitter @Koss51209969 and Instagram @koss_singular. Her website is http://koss-works.com.

~~~

Why I Live on the Floor

Some people wonder why I live on the floor. Why I crawl out of my green and red plaid womb each morning and back in at night. Why I crawl on the wooden floor and over two small throw rugs to the refrigerator to get a glass of juice. Why I crawl over to a milk crate, pull out a book, and curl up on the floor to read. Why I write on the floors and sometimes on the walls above the painted baseboards. It is not an eastern thing, living on the floor, it is simply that I cannot live on the ceiling.

first published in SAIC’s Lament Journal

~~~

Chinese Master Number > No Mistakes in Numerology

one

how I arrived

shedding mess of mother

lived often as echo

when Grams left

just me

then

and

now

and when

I leave

again

 

two

shoes not misplaced

Birkenstocks with peels and scents

all the mistaken duplicate orders

always gave one to Max

each brush

paint tube

gratuitous error

a we way of . . .

sum of us

no longer alone

in numerology, luck

when doubled

on itself

two humps

two bumps

twin flames

girl faggotry

lavender menace

too-too

tou-tou

-you

 

two

other half of lucky

the aborted twins

the evil ones arriving later

eating mafé with Max

on a small rubber tree table

two children left

two eyes no longer see

unlucky twos

anomalies

separated

too early [22 = master builder > masturbator > dream-heavy-darlings]

no glue for magic

 

one

off-key a capella

from an androgynous

hazel-eyed boy

echoed in a tiny white

church

chamber

decades ago

the important boy

younger

the gifted one

not me

yet like me

faulty, we

sing

brother

chosen

 

nine

carried me in anxiety

sack, not quite

what we count on

in utero

arrived early

miraculous escapes

pregnancy is

causal

casual

a casualty

karmic

cats have

nine also

live

not Max

 

six

divided by three

is how to get lucky

 

five

kids fathered

father time

had a good time

x 5

also lucky, him

odd

numbers

don’t

make

even

children

~~~

person Benjamin Harnett, one poem

Benjamin Harnett is a poet, fiction writer, historian, and digital engineer. His poetry has appeared recently in Poet Lore, Saranac Review, Juked, and ENTROPY; and is forthcoming in Hobart Pulp and the Evansville Review. His short-story “Delivery” was Longform’s Story of the Week; he was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in Poetry; and he has been nominated for a Pushcart. He lives in Beacon, NY with his wife Toni and a collection of eccentric pets. He works for The New York Times.

//\\

THE COINS IN THE GRAVE OF KING CHILDERIC

There are some new birds in the yard.
Among them a pair of goldfinches.
Yellow as flowers or as precious gems.

They land on the catnip: It nods as they do.
Are they eating the seed? We have
attributed it, jokingly—this new avian opulence—

to “the plague.” I work from home now. Instead
of going out, I study. In the pile
a monograph, “The Coins in the Grave

of King Childeric,” what was it, friend,
just an oval in the ground, cocooned by stone:
richness, alone—bones, arched ribs,

grinning skull, some diadem,
a crown. He looks dopey
in the image from his signet ring,

big eyes up, yeah, that’s right, to God!
Isn’t history odd? But no, it was stunning,
what was found: all gold coins, garnet,

and the bones wrapped in a cloak,
three hundred winged insects
fashioned in gold; King Childeric’s

bees. They buzz through the catnip flowers,
on our Russian sage. Insects of memory,

birds, and age.

\\//

person Austin Davis, one poem

Austin Davis is a poet and student activist currently studying creative writing at ASU. Austin is the author of “The World Isn’t the Size of Our Neighborhood Anymore” (Weasel Press, 2020) and “Celestial Night Light” (Ghost City Press, 2020). You can find Austin on Twitter @Austin_Davis17 and on Instagram @austinwdavis1.

/*/

I’ll be the Ocean if You be the Wind That Makes me Curl

I’m so close to sleep,
my feet are leaving my legs for another body.

You’re underwater,
twisting on the faucet in the bathroom

as the gargle of traffic sews a sweater of exhaust
down 9th Avenue.

It’s that time of night again where young people
play the piano and take off their clothes

and you’re making me want to compose a song
about the slow way you brush your teeth in the dark.

I’m so close to sleep,
the car alarm outside our window

is nothing but a mouthful of bubbles
floating to the surface, popping at the skyline.

\*\

person Nathan Anderson, two poems

Nathan Anderson is a writer from Canberra Australia, his work has previously appeared in Otoliths and Gone Lawn. You can find him at nathanandersonwriting.home.blog.

/////

To a Smokestack

Mother we must hide away our spurs
as we have done
since your asking/telling
since your apocalyptic respiration
since your groping for sound
and feeling
in the heaped corners of the room
known as waking
and sleep walking

***

Forged
        and reformed

Without the glass, without the guiding hand, without ‘mother, mother, mother, mother!’

Without scavenging carnivores
          careening down carnival streets
sounding like carnivals
          sounding like enterprise

***

awake again past 4am
awake again in sweat and liberation
awake again in ‘mother, mother, mother, mother!’

\\\\\

Self-portrait as Dialogue

God you tell me I am estranged
from a skull on a weeping hand
a desperate malnutrition
a closing neck
God you speak to me in foreign tongues
to tell me not to waltz my crucifixion
to swallow sand
to be apart and part

God where is your loveliness
where is your starry music
where is your father/mother touch
your fragrant wild tones

God I told you I was sanctified
and cannot play your harp and sing
and cannot wheel around the western road
and cannot climb this stump

God, tell me, have you seen these apparitions
are you jealous of their hair
and indolence
do they make you dream of manumission

God when did you leave me prone as organs
when did you learn to torment spines
and lips
and clasping hands

God have you been told to be a good son
and made to count your fingers
and silver spoons
and ceased to have a name

God when will you give me back my paunch
and deign to greet me
when will you raise up slack upon the stone
heralding nudity

/////

person Rochelle Jewel Shapiro, two poems

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s novel, Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004) was nominated for the Ribelow Prize. The sequel, Kaylee’s Ghost (2012) was an Indie Finalist. Her poems and short stories have appeared in The Iowa Review, Peregrine, Atlanta Review, Amoskaag, The Delmara Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and more. She’s published essays in The New York Times (Lives) and Newsweek, plus many anthologies. Her poetry has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and she’s won the Branden Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. Spry Magazine nominated her poem for the Best of the Net. Currently she teaches writing at UCLA Extension.

*****

MERCURY RETROGRADE

With the sun’s drumbeat
        on the roof of her black Mercury,
Mother drives the nine-hour pre-
        Thruway winding route from Rockaway Beach
to her parents in Syracuse. We three
        sisters sit in the backseat until
one of us gets caught pinching or kicking.
        The guilty one gets to sit
in front where the dashboard fan
        whirrs the thick, humid air.
As if on cue, middle sister pukes
        into a paper bag from my father’s grocery
where he’ll continue to overwork,
        his belly full of bowls of shav,
borscht, gribenes slathered on black bread,
        and other shtetl foods.

A man who only wanted a son
        will not miss his three daughters
nor his Amerikanisher wife, who buys
        dresses from department stores
instead of street carts. Money is bubkes
        to someone who never had to escape a country.

But Mother has to escape
        his fist smashing the table,
making the dishes jump, or crashing
        a chair against the kitchen wall,
escape the bristles of his night-beard
        against her face, his heft
on top of her small frame without even one
        ich habe dir lib,
I love you, which he used to whisper
        into her neck. No matter
if you are born here,
        you can, at any moment,
become a refugee.

*****

NOT LIKE AN EGRET

I don’t begin, bent-kneed,
my long neck stretched.
I don’t push off the marsh
with yellow feet, nor flap
white wings, nor hear
them beating.

My flight is a whoosh
that lifts me off my bed,
a rushing
like when you take in a wave
and your ears are filled
with the ocean’s roar.

Morning, I land
in the arms of my dead mother
who holds me, raft-like.
Through my closed lids, I see
the globe of her white bathing cap
like a moon in the sky of day.
Why waken?

*****

person Mary Newton, short story

Mary Newton is a fiction writer, poet and retired teacher. She attended UCLA, where she received a BA in Creative Writing. She also holds an MA in English Literature from San Francisco State University. Her work has been published in Westwind, UCLA’s literary magazine, in The MacGuffin, and is upcoming in Evening Street Review. She currently lives in Oxford, Ohio.

~~~~~

AFTER THE SOLSTICE

          The summer I turned eighteen, my mother quit cooking, running errands, and paying bills. When her teaching semester was over, she took to sitting in her robe, staring at dust motes. She told me she was not meant to be a mother of four, that if it had been up to her, she’d have opted to be an agoraphobic poet, like Emily Dickinson.
          My mom is rather pretty, but as a child I believed she was beautiful because of the way my father looked at her when she couldn’t see him doing it. Like she was some precious, rare bird he had that might someday fly off. My dad was not into rare birds and probably should have married a different kind of woman, but the two of them had gotten stuck together at a young age. And at twenty she got pregnant with me and dropped out of college to marry him.
          Mom finished her education but it took her many years because of me and a few other people, like Blake, Eli, and finally Cress. So I hated to see her sitting in that bathrobe. She wanted me to go to college and to not let anything bog me down. I had the grade point average, and my Grandfather Whitson said he’d pay for it, but I heard they made you live in the dorms at first, and I wasn’t sure I could leave Mom to deal with Dad, Blake, Eli, and Cress all alone.
          The application lay on my desk through the spring, gathering dust. It was still there on the summer solstice when she shocked us all by packing a suitcase and driving off without a word. Hours later she called to report that she was in the mountains with her aunt, Virginia, and that she’d be there until further notice. But instead of filling out the college application, I found myself cooking, running errands, and paying bills for Dad, Blake, Eli, and Cress.
          At the time my sister, Cress, known as Tinker Bell, was an eleven-year-old who had nightmares and got knocked over easily. Eli was thirteen, a wheeler-dealer built something like a groundhog who loved music and ate everything he could get his hands on. And all his life Blake had been given to hitting and kicking Eli, who had endured it because Blake also hit and kicked people who picked on his brother at school for being a clowny fat kid. At sixteen Blake’s aggression was reserved for an endless war with Dad, and the battles that summer were all about what recent events had driven Mom insane.
          Since she’d been gone, Dad was like some lion that had been shot by a hunter, where it wasn’t hurt badly enough to die but obviously wasn’t doing well. He drank whiskey late at night and fell asleep on the couch. And he only talked about Mom when someone else brought her up. So when Blake said Dad had driven her away with his anger management issues, Dad punched a hole in the wall of the den. The blow landed a foot away from Blake, who bolted from the house, almost knocking Tinker Bell down on his way out. We expected him to come back in an hour or two, but the day went by and then the night.
          “Hunger will drive him home,” Dad said. “Sooner or later. And if it doesn’t, he’s a Roe. And I’ll take my hat off to him.” But he said I’ll take my hat off darkly, as if it was a threat, and we all took relief in the fact that Dad didn’t wear a hat. However, he left the back door unlocked and the kitchen light on, hoping Blake would sneak back and spend the night in his own bed. Instead a bag of Oreos and a package of Oscar Meyer wieners disappeared mysteriously.
          In the morning I peeked into the garage to see if he was, maybe, asleep in there, since the box of camping equipment contained sleeping bags. He wasn’t but the box had been thrown open, and a bag was missing, along with a lantern and a tarp. Which meant he planned to live in the woods, something he’d been threatening to do since Mom left.
          The days went by and he still didn’t show his face, though things like Cheerios and cans of Spam continued to disappear while we all slept. Dad quit mentioning Blake but he took to staring out the window at the line of oaks where our backyard ended and the woods began.
          I watched the trees myself, mostly through the window above the sink while washing dishes. Through the same window I’d sometimes see Tinker Bell climbing the back porch’s stair rail, where she’d hang upside down by her knees, and I knew it was because she had a full view of the forest from there. And then one night, while taking out the trash, I caught Eli out there smoking.
          “I can feel him watching me through the trees,” he explained. “And I know he’s smelling the smoke. Sooner or later he’s gonna come around and want a cigarette and then we’ll talk. He’ll be hungry and need a shower, and he’ll quit trying to be that guy in Castaway.”
          “Won’t he be pissed that you stole his stuff?”
          “It serves him right for taking the whole bag of Oreos. Anyway, I’m almost out but I can get my friend Worrell to buy me more. He’s sixteen.”
          “And why would Worrell spend his money buying you Lucky Strikes?”
          “He won’t. I’ll sell stuff to get the money.”
          “What stuff?”
          “There’s this old decrepit dude who buys vinyl records. They’re collectors’ items now. Some of them. And I told him about all those records Dad still has. And now he wants this record of Dad’s, No Way Out by the Chocolate Watchband. He said he’d be willing to pay some bucks for it.”
          “Have you told Dad you’re trying to sell his records?”
          “Dad doesn’t care about those corroded things anymore. That’s why he keeps them in the attic.”
          “You’d better ask him.”
          “I did ask him. Like, through the door when he was taking a shower. He didn’t hear me but at least I asked.”
          “That doesn’t count.”
          Eli lifted the cigarette to his lips and smoked, staring at the woods.
          So I’d almost forgotten Eli’s plan when a message in an unknown voice was caught on the answering machine tape. “I’m callin’ the kid that’s got No Way Out.” It was a male voice, kind of deep and hoarse.
          Dad came in from the other room, and we both stared at the machine with its tiny, blinking light.
          “Who in the world is that?”
          Dad lifted his hand to shush me.
          “The Chocolate Watchband,” the guy said. “I’ll give you thirty bucks. But only if it’s in good shape.” The caller hung up and Dad gazed at the machine, his face blank, his hand curling like he was thinking of making a fist.
          “Blake,” he muttered. “It’s Blake the guy’s trying to get ahold of. He’s been in here night after night stealing wieners and lanterns. And now he’s selling my records.”
          “Eli’s the one who’s into music. He probably mentioned the record to the guy, thinking you could make some bucks off it.”
          Dad bellowed up the staircase for Eli to come down. Oddly, he bellowed for Tinker Bell too. He seemed a little unhinged. Especially when he made us all sit side-by-side on the couch while he faced us in an armchair, bolt upright, his arms on the rests like it was some throne.
          “Something’s going on,” Dad said. “And I’m going to need your cooperation to address some crap.” Then he said what I already knew. That he had reason to believe Blake was selling records that belonged to him.
          “Don’t look surprised, Eli,” Dad said. “You know Blake. And you know he’s a little sack of shit as well as I do.”
          “I don’t think Blake would do that,” Eli said. It must have been easy for him to sound earnest, since the statement was true. “I mean, yeah, he takes wieners and Oreos. But he wouldn’t sell your records. Who’d do that?”
          Dad’s face was carved from granite.
          “You’re defending your brother because you have a good heart.” He said “good heart” with scorn, like he was really saying “face of a dog.”
          Tinker Bell raised her hand, and I thought she was going to ask what Dad planned to do to Blake. Instead all she said was, “Can I go now?”
          “I need the three of you to stay upstairs for the rest of the evening,” Dad said. “And keep the lights off.”
Tinker Bell was already trying to slither from the couch, but I pulled her back onto the cushions next to me.
          “Why do you want us to do this, Dad?” I tried to sound as respectful as possible.
          “So Blake will think we’ve all gone to bed. He plans to sneak in tonight and make off with something he wants to sell. I plan to stay up and wait for him.”
          “What are you going to do when he gets here?” Tinker Bell used her little, tremulous voice.
          “It’s time for this shit to stop,” was all Dad said. He looked like some obelisk with a human face, but Eli was kind of twitchy and sweaty.
          “So repeat it back to me,” Dad said. “What’s the plan?”
          “We have to keep the lights off,” Tinker Bell said.
          “And stay upstairs,” Eli said.
          “You’re going to confront Blake,” I said.
          Should I snitch on Eli? A glance at Dad’s marble face made me decide not.
          After that the three of us tiptoed upstairs to my room. And as soon as the door was shut, I asked Eli when, exactly, he planned to tell Dad the truth. His answer was to sink into my only chair and stare at the floor.
          “Well?”
          “Do I have to?”
          I sat on my bed, and Tinker Bell climbed onto it next to me.
          “Of course you have to. His relationship with Blake is psychotic under the best of circumstances. I don’t know what he’ll do to him or say to him. But I don’t want to see it. I want to prevent it.”
          “He keeps looking at his hand,” Tinker Bell said. “That Blake accidently slammed the car door on that time. And flexing his fingers.”
          “Okay, so Blake isn’t planning to sell Dad’s record,” Eli said. “But he really did slam Dad’s hand in the car door. So he deserves whatever he gets for beating up on me all these years.”
          “I thought you wanted Blake to come in out of the rain. And quit living like the guy in Castaway.”
          “I do. But not if I have to tell Dad I was trying to sell his crud. He’s in a bizarre state of mind.”
          “Okay. But you’re the one trying to sell the freaking record. Tell Dad it was you making record deals. He’ll probably forgive you. Then we’ll all go back to normal.” I kind of choked on the word “normal.”
          “Dad doesn’t really care about the record,” Eli said. “It’s just the idea of someone selling it without asking him.”
          “It’s the idea of Blake selling it without asking him.”
          “I’ve been eating so much, I’ve gotten all big now. Almost as big as Dad. What if he punches me in the head?”
          Dad had never punched anyone in his own family. However, right now he wasn’t in his normal state of mind, and no one knew what he might do that he’d never done before.
          Eli rolled out of the chair and onto my bed, the part where Cress and I weren’t sitting. He lay face down.
          “Why don’t you tell him?” he muttered into the pillow. “You’re the one who can talk to him when he’s like this.”
          When I was little it used to feel like my dad had an invisible cord attached to him, and the other end was attached to me. When something made him angry, I’d feel a tug, like someone had yanked my end of the cord, and I’d look up just in time to see him crunching an empty beer can in his fist. I’d hang around him and try to distract him from whatever he’d remembered that had made him mad because everything felt safer if he wasn’t pissed off. So in light of Eli’s cowardice, I groped my way downstairs in the dark, alone.
          When I entered the lighted kitchen, Dad was in the chair by the back door with his legs stretched out in front of him. His arms were folded across his chest, a bottle of whiskey next to him on the counter.
          “Tara. What’s up?”
          “It was Eli who called the collector about your record. He didn’t think you wanted it.”
          My dad’s eyes are dark brown, with tiny gold flecks in the irises. For me they always bring to mind some deep lake where a golden carp is hiding in the gloom, and I feel like I can almost see glints of it if I look carefully. But it’s never helped me figure out what he’s thinking.
          “Nice try,” he finally said.
          “I’m not lying. Eli tried to sell your record. Not Blake.”
          “Tara, don’t cover for Blake.”
          “He needs to be held accountable,” I said. “I understand that. He does bad stuff. He’s broken windows and stolen—stolen crud. But don’t hold him accountable for something Eli did. Please. It’s not fair.”
          “Eli put you up to this.” Dad’s eyes glinted again. “He’s always been a better brother than Blake deserves.”
          “No, Dad. Eli didn’t put me up to anything. And what are you going to do to Blake?”
          For some reason my heart was starting to beat hard.
          Dad unscrewed the cap on his whiskey bottle and drank. Then he put it back on the counter and folded his arms. He didn’t answer the question, and I remembered Eli saying, “I’m almost as big as Dad now. What if he punches me in the head?” I ran back to my room very perturbed.
          I arrived in time to hear Tinker Bell say, “There he is. I see him.”
          The three of us peered out the window. It was dark but we could see the glow of a battery lantern moving through the grass toward the house, like a giant firefly.
          “Should we go out there and warn him?” Eli said.
          “Dad’ll flip if we interfere with his plans,” I said. “So no. We should try to mediate somehow.”
          When we got to the kitchen, Blake had just come through the back door, the lantern in his hand, a duffel over his shoulder. He looked startled by the sight of Dad. It was like he’d sneaked into a haunted house in time to see some long-dead ancestor materialize in a mirror. Blake put the lantern on the counter, Dad watching him like he was seeing his own reflection in something you’re not supposed to see yourself in. Like maybe water breaking up under a pier.
          “My grandmother almost shot me once,” Dad finally said. “The grandmother who raised me. At about this time of night. She thought I was a prowler because I’d climbed in a window. You’re lucky I don’t have a gun.”
          “You’d shoot me, wouldn’t you?”
          Blake sounded like he’d relish that because it would prove how evil Dad was. His jeans were smeared with mud from the creek, and he’d grown a little beard, like some painter living in a garret in Paris, France. It made him look more intelligent than he really was.
          “I’m only here to get stuff of mine,” he said.
          “Stuff of yours?” This question referred to the old vinyl record that was a collector’s item but Blake had no clue.
          “Okay, I know most of my stuff came from the sweat off your brows,” he said. “But you can keep anything you ever gave me. I’m taking stuff Mom gave me. And stuff I got with the sweat off my own brows.”
          “I know what you really came in here for,” Dad said. “No Way Out by the Chocolate Watchband.”
          Blake stared.
          “Dad’s talking about a vinyl record,” I said. For the first time they noticed Eli, Tinker Bell, and me lurking in the doorway. “A record that belongs to him. He thinks you want to sell it without asking.”
          “I don’t want his weak old records.” A smile came over Blake’s face. “Nobody wants that trash.”
          “They do too,” Eli said. “I could’ve gotten got thirty bucks for it.”
          Dad’s lips parted in shock.
          “See?” Blake said to Dad. “Your good son was going to sell your record.”
          He sauntered toward the staircase still carrying the duffel, like he planned to go up to his room and get stuff and then leave again. And it really hurt. Because we’d all been hoping, deep down, that things would resolve now that Blake was talking to us again.
          Dad stood and said, “This isn’t what I wanted for you.” I’d never seen tears in Dad’s eyes before.
          “What did you want for me?” Blake said. “College?”
          His face was like the laughing mask in that comedy and tragedy symbol.
          “I wanted you to grow up to be a Roe.”
          “I don’t want to be a Roe.”
          He was halfway to the staircase when Eli got in front of it.
          Eli was a lot bigger than he ever used to be because of all the eggs and noodles and pears he’d been eating lately, which had given him a growth spurt, but Blake didn’t seem to notice. He pushed Eli, trying to get him out of the way of the stairs. Then, to everyone’s shock, Eli punched Blake full in the face. Blake went down, his head hitting the linoleum with a thud. He lay still, with his eyes closed, and didn’t move.
          There was total silence, the kind I imagine probably exists in outer space. Blake looked peaceful, almost saintly. Except that he was dirty and kind of pale.
          An old hippie once told me that on LSD, time slows down and you’re never sure what’s real and keep thinking, “Is this really happening?” It was like that when Dad crouched down and felt Blake’s chest to see if he was breathing.
          “You just knocked your brother out cold,” he told Eli. “If you concussed him, it could be bad. We have to call paramedics.”
          “I didn’t plan to hit him,” Eli stammered. “It just happened. I’d never want to hurt him. He’s not used to it like I am.”
          While Dad called an ambulance, Eli patted Blake’s cheek and whispered his name. Blake’s eyes opened, glazed like he’d spent the last three years smoking opium.
          “What happened?”
          “I decked you,” Eli said.
          “Why?”
          “You were being a jerk.”
          “What did I do?”
          “You said you didn’t want to be a Roe.”
          “Why did I say that?”
          “I don’t know, Blake. You tell me.”
          “I’ve been living out in the woods,” he said, as if that explained it.

***

          It turned out Blake didn’t have a concussion, much to everyone’s relief, and as soon as he was home from the ER, he got into the bathtub and turned on the shower. He stayed in there for some forty minutes, and afterward the tub was the color of a thunderhead, the drain clogged with pebbles and little twigs.
          Eli and I went out to the woods, where we found Blake’s lean-to and took it apart. Its tarp roof was covered with tree sap and ants. Oreo bags were strewn about, and broken glass, and he’d carved a smiley face in one of the tree trunks for some reason. We took the tarp down, and I gathered his dirty, wrinkled clothes. And while they eddied in the washer, I went upstairs to my room and closed the door.
          The college application still lay on my desk, a child’s desk Mom had given me for my tenth birthday. I still used it when I needed to write, sitting in an old dinette chair because the one that went with the desk was too small. I took a ballpoint pen out of the drawer. It was too late for the fall semester, I told myself, but I could maybe start in spring. I didn’t know what I planned to major in. I wasn’t a rare bird type of girl and had no desire to be an agoraphobic poet. Still, I thought of Mom as I filled out the forms. It was what she wanted for me. And besides that, I wanted to go.

END

person Barbara Parchim, one poem

Barbara Parchim lives on a small farm in southwest Oregon. Retired from social work she volunteered for many years at a wildlife rehabilitation and education facility caring for raptors and wolves. She enjoys gardening and wilderness hiking. Her poems have appeared (or are forthcoming) in Cobra Lily, the Jefferson Journal, Windfall, Turtle Island Quarterly and Trouvaille Review.

~*~

GARDEN TRIPTYCH

I

Hilling the corn
in the heat of afternoon
we suddenly notice the fox 50 feet away
sitting on haunches near the barn.
He muses in the dappled shade
as we work the ground –
mounding the corn with hoe and spade
and digging up the relentless bindweed.

Later, under cover of night,
he barks his challenge
outside the bedroom window
to bait our yellow dog
sleeping on our bed.
The dog lurches up, baying.
Nothing new here,
they’ve had this conversation before.

Brazen – this one –
as sure of his place on this homestead
as tonight’s ceiling of constellations
and dawn’s half-light in the meadow.

For now, the garden beckons,
redolent with scent.
Sun-drenched soil
still warm underfoot,
he turns to make his rounds
through vegetables and mulch –
as he does every night –
to reclaim what is his.

II

The doe arrives every day now,
sometimes more than once,
slipping around the corner
of the blackberry thicket
to the soft “thwok”
of apple and pear
as we toss them over the fence.

No fawn this year – or none survives.
She arrives on her own
separate from the other does
with young who shadow and dart.
Less skittish,
she comes closer to the garden fence
where we weed the peonies.
Her left rear leg
canted at a slight angle
from some half-healed injury,
she delicately samples
first the yellow, then the red –
these gifts from the orchard.

Soon enough – the urgency of autumn,
but for now, she eats her fill,
then folds her legs beneath her.
She settles under alder and willow
near the seep from the spring.
With the garden to her back,
her ears twitch away the annoying flies.
She faces downhill –
a valley and mountain panorama –
content in this late summer drowse.

III

Low slanting light of autumn
illuminates what might
otherwise go unseen –
swarms of insects, tiny and frenetic.
They circle in orbital traceries
invisible to my eye.
Each insect a tiny planet,
each swarm a galaxy
amongst so many galaxies.
This late season hatch
hovers over this universe of garden.

The dragonflies have arrived –
green and blue darners
iridescent and resplendent.
So thick in numbers
that word of this feeding frenzy
must have circulated for miles.

There is surely a cacophony
inaudible to my ears
but for the dry whisper
of the darner’s wings as they dart and feed.
The porch rocker my front row seat
for this visual symphony –
these ephemeral changelings of summer know
winter’s adagio is on the wind.

~*~

person Carla Sarett, two poems

Carla Sarett‘s recent work appears in Third Wednesday, Prole, Halfway Down the Stairs, Defenestration and elsewhere; her essays have been nominated for Best American Essays and the Pushcart Prize. A Closet Feminist, her debut novel, will be published in 2022. Carla lives in San Francisco.

thinking about sad chicken on the bus

the elderly take
their sweet time
climbing up

one hour’s
the same
as two
like those

sad chickens
my mother
never timed

one mysterious
chicken after
another

we used to watch The Searchers

after crazed
old Mose says
no money just

a rockin’ chair
by the fire it’s
all he needs

you’d repeat
his lines with
your terrible

cowboy twang
you could never
do American

could you no
matter how
many times

I give away
others I am
keeping this

person Julie Tonkinson, one poem

Julie Tonkinson resides in Seattle where she was born and raised. She is an artist, graphic designer, and poet. In her spare time she enjoys learning permaculture and growing vegetables.

\/

Dragging anchor

After twenty hours of traveling home,
I was a caught koi, floppy, fleshy,
and unblinking wide eyes.
Still freshly wrung out by a man

whose fingers were unable
to be woven with mine.
When things like this sputter out,
I leave, dragging anchor.

Japan didn’t instruct me in anything
I didn’t already know heavily:

Water gets colder the longer
you don’t move, bobbing around.
This thick skin I should have
is a paltry paper screen,
and holding hands is a shrine.

/\

person Bob Meszaros, two poems

Bob Meszaros taught English at Hamden High School in Hamden, Connecticut, for thirty-two years. He retired from high school teaching in June of 1999. During the 70s and 80s his poems appeared in a number of literary journals, such as En Passant and Voices International. In the year 2000 he began teaching part time at Quinnipiac University, and he once again began to submit his work for publication. His poems have subsequently appeared in The Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Red Wheelbarrow, Tar River Poetry, Concho River Review, and other literary journals.

The Pathogens

No bedrock here
just a ridge of dirt and stone
where the glacier stopped
and the ice withdrew
seventeen thousand years ago.

Now, children of the pandemic,
haunted by pictures of the virus–
pictures hung behind updates and warnings
on tv and computer screens–

build cairns on granite boulders–
narrow blunt-topped columns, rising
three or four stones high, turning
boulders into pathogens–

a morning’s work
for frightened children,
a morning’s work they hope the tide
will quickly wash away.

Waiting for the Grandchildren

At the curb, stacked like cordwood,
nine biodegradable brown paper bags
stuffed with last year’s leaves–the leaves
of red oak, beach and maple–now colorless
and brittle, waiting for the backhoe
and the dump truck to arrive.

Behind the wooden deck, hanging
from the crooks of slender wrought iron
poles–poles we shouldered then pitch-forked
hurriedly in place–two yellow tube feeders,
their stainless-steel screen cylinders packed
with black hard-shelled nyjer, the seeds
beloved by finches, redpolls, siskins.

The plastic chairs are on the deck,
set six feet apart. The limestone bird
bath, bowl on base, is balanced, stable,
set in place on grass we pounded
flat with cast iron tampers.

Between the chairs, trays of surgical
face masks, still in their cellophane wrappers,
grace the Quick-Fold patio side-tables, like plates
of store-bought cookies, waiting.