6 Poems by Rebecca Lehmann
What specter? This baby’s love?
An extinct animal? Keats’s ghastly
prismatic ghost-hand reaching
beyond the grave? My stepmother’s
grandmother, now blind, head throbbing
as she labors to breathe, mouths
commands to voice-recognition software.
She just wants to see her family,
and not through glass,
and maybe not ever again.
A nurse spoon-feeds her supper,
helps her to the bathroom,
tries to practice kindness through
her mask and plastic visor,
through her taped-on gown and gloves.
What specter? What eidolon?
What phantom? At night we watch
an actress dressed up as a princess
dressed up as Christine singing
“All I Ask of You” to her ghoulish
menacing husband who hates her.
She’ll be a ghost in the next season,
when her car phantoms into the wall
of a Parisian tunnel in the spectral night.
We watch the fog sink in the graveyard
behind our house. In October
I walk through the back part
where the oldest graves are,
along the river, crying and snapping
morbid pictures of all the stones
that read Baby, Baby, Our Beloved Babies,
Mother & Baby, Our Beloved Infant Daughter,
Our Beloved Infant Son. How many graves
are from 1919, 1920, the last pandemic?
I weep on a stone bench, go home
over their luminescence. There,
in the corner of mine eye, a ghost
go-eth, curly haired, noose around
his neck, shaking his fist in my direction,
whispering Dumb bitch. In November
the deaths top a quarter of a million.
In December we lose and lose.
I run through the graveyard. What loose
pebbles slide beneath my athletic shoes?
What pointed leafless boughs snag
the bitter wind? What ghost? What specter?
What phantom? What fog? What
creeping miasma, come to carry
us Lethe-wards, come to sink and sink?
4 Poems by Maggie Queeney
The Nature of the Body of the Patient
Was it a pet gifted to her at birth, or the wild animal
broken to bear and carry the load of her, drag the cart
of her. A ribbon around the throat or a thin leather
lash across her mouth. A seashell or wrapped in inches
of sweet fruit, bleeding juice before the rot. The sand.
Covered in chain mail of charcoal scales or iridescent
plumage. Her body is not the metaphor. Shelter is not
a metaphor. What covers is not what sustains. The vehicle
that drags her closer inward, the car rumbling deeper
into the dark glitter of the mine. Or that scatters like light,
a flock, a herd, a cloud of silver bait fish. Thunderhead
with heat lightning flaring the dark boil of it, hail like seed
pearls studded in the dark velvet, like seeds sleeping
inside the dirt, waiting for the burn of wildfire to crack
open. The impressions teeth leave inside her cheeks.
4 Poems by Joe Wilkins
A slash pile always looks like it hurts.
Torn limbs & uprooted stumps.
The land about dozer-rutted tractor-gouged.
Trees all gone a raw face a black boil it hurts.
I wish we didn’t have to wait until the first snow.
Wish we could burn it now.
My grandfather told me one winter in the ’30s they fed all the chairs to the fire.
Then the table the shelves the beds.
The wall between the bedrooms.
They had to burn the house to keep the house warm.
He said he didn’t much like to think about it.
Wasn’t even sure why he told me.
He was dragged half a mile by a horse when he was fourteen.
Ever after one leg an inch shorter than the other.
For some reason it’s easier to see his limp when he’s walking away.
4 Poems by Jessica Garratt
EARLY MORNING, GALWAY, 1998
I’d walk downhill, bayward, down to the French café where I worked in a
country that wasn’t mine. The air had the chill clarity of the shop
windows a few men were washing in their white suits and caps—the same
men each day; I waved—as white gulls carved roundy shapes and calls
into the blue overhead and burly kegs rolled loud down the cobblestones
with alarming force and buoyancy, barely under control, until they were
guided with sudden grace down into a pub’s dark cellar. On that
morning, which is many mornings that shine in time as one, I too
arrived, slowed by heat, dense smells, Thierry’s grouchy gaze as he
wound the kitchen like a clock. I tied on an apron fresh from the
laundry sack and tried to tamp my joy, or let it find a narrower
tributary (comradely co-misery) that Thierry wouldn’t mind. Later,
others would join us: More waitresses. The window washers, done for the
day, flirting and ordering heavy English breakfasts as they tipped their
chairs back like boys I remembered from school. Lunchtime tourists
squinting and turning their heads like birds whose gazes I’d try not to
meet for fear of recognition that I was like them and didn’t belong. I
wanted to feel at home and also entirely free. I almost managed it. The
scene rustles its subtle senses, itself torn free, a page blowing wildly
down the thoroughfare, then lifting for a life-long moment into the sky
over the bay.
4 Poems by Tiana Clark
Self-Portrait at Divorce
After reading Stag’s Leap again and finally knowing
what the hell Sharon Olds was writing about
The day my husband left
I accidentally set off the house alarm
and the dog finally curled into my chest
like a warm croissant of cream fur and you
had replaced the trash bag for the last time
and the recycling and I walked into
your office and I wept and wept inside
your pillow on our bed (whoops) I mean my bed
a California king our biggest bed yet because
we wanted space for our long bodies to stretch
and room the for the dog to splay and I put water
in the dog bowl and I told myself that I had to remember
to do that because you had always done that simple task
Poem by V. Penelope Pelizzon
Of Vinegar Of Pearl (an excerpt)
V. Penelope Pelizzon
“The elements return to the body of their mother.” —Paracelsus
Like pulp-and-spittle wasps’ nests
built in their season to last
only until winter, bones
crumble in her as she sits.
She sections the day’s clemen-
cies into mouthfuls, hawks out
any bitter pips, swallows
good pungence with sips of smoke
—Lapsang Souchong or Laphroaig,
depending on the hour—
preferring solitude to
solicitude from the kind,
including her children who
were hard to bear and are hard
now to hear. Nine decades have
drawn her, masterwork of ten-
don and vein illustrating
frailty condensing to one
ferocious node, a will still
refusing to cede. But now?
When the heart no longer turns
the blood’s tide. When fluid pools,
refusing to be sluiced back
into its channels. She’s walked
so far down the strand that seals
barely lift their heads as she
steps over them, returning
finally to her sisters.
She’s up to her knees now in
a flosh of her body’s own
sea-wash. Dying? Or dying-
ish? Is this it? Is it this?
5 Poems by Nancy Reddy
Spooky Action at a Distance
In the Nashville airport, in gate C-84, in the industrial carpet and molded
where we all wait to be carried elsewhere,
a baby sleeps against his mother’s
chest. His right foot is froglegged up to meet his chest. He’s that new, his body
soft and curled
as if to fit still the small space of the womb.
The universe is thin. Even across this gate—
Six Poems by Bruce Campbell
I Hear the Continents Are Drifting Like Great Granite Pirates
I hear the continents are drifting like great granite pirates
and that matter hangs like a tapestry
whose threads are wove through vacuum,
that birds are fragments of dinosaurs and
whales invented algebra,
and I believe it
all for the sake of wonder.
And if philosophy might be science with a leaning toward hyperbole,
if paleontology could cohabit with quantum field theory
and plate tectonics meld with ethnomusicology (shanties, specifically),
if mathematics joined hands with cetology,
if we cared to make a whole of all we knew in part,
then birds are heirs to brontosaurs
and whales taught Newton calculus
—logic weds with art,
and wonder, like a weed the garden needed, grows through all we know.
Poems: Chelsea B. DesAutels
Maybe You Need to Write a Poem About Mercy
after Robert Hass
Start this one with the woman standing at the edge
of the woods. Or the desert, it doesn’t matter,
what matters is she’s standing under a darkening sky
and she knows, at this point, having spent months
in the hospital, that there’s nothing she can do—
no threshold between threat and tranquility,
no demarcation she can draw around herself
for her child for protection, everything is actually
everything else, the stone just kicked
and whatever comes next are the same.
Poems: Brandi Nicole Martin
No Market for Unfixable Suffering
So I watercolor my skin graft
and thereby beautify its hue,
reframe so I was never “crushed under”
or “burned by car muffler” but instead delicious,
a palatable image, a crumb on the lip
of the reader’s hungry God. The alternative,
more difficult: one day, doctors laced me to a table,
tilted it upward so my legs would avoid
forming clots. This was after the brain bleed,
but I was still a numb puddle, an inkblot,
nothing but regret and a hideous floating head.