6 Poems by Rebecca Lehmann

Specter
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 throbbingas 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 throughher mask and plastic visor,through her taped-on gown and gloves.What specter? What eidolon?What phantom? At night we watchan actress dressed up as a princessdressed up as Christine singing“All I Ask of You” to her ghoulishmenacing husband who hates her.She’ll be a ghost in the next season,when her car phantoms into the wallof a Parisian tunnel in the spectral night.We watch the fog sink in the graveyardbehind our house. In OctoberI walk through the back partwhere the oldest graves are,along the river, crying and snappingmorbid pictures of all the stonesthat 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
and carve pumpkins into glowing skulls
with my children who ooh and ahhhover their luminescence. There, in the corner of mine eye, a ghost go-eth, curly haired, noose aroundhis 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 loosepebbles slide beneath my athletic shoes? What pointed leafless boughs snagthe bitter wind? What ghost? What specter?What phantom? What fog? What creeping miasma, come to carryus 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 animalbroken to bear and carry the load of her, drag the cartof her. A ribbon around the throat or a thin leatherlash across her mouth. A seashell or wrapped in inchesof sweet fruit, bleeding juice before the rot. The sand.Covered in chain mail of charcoal scales or iridescentplumage. Her body is not the metaphor. Shelter is nota metaphor. What covers is not what sustains. The vehiclethat drags her closer inward, the car rumbling deeperinto the dark glitter of the mine. Or that scatters like light,a flock, a herd, a cloud of silver bait fish. Thunderheadwith heat lightning flaring the dark boil of it, hail like seedpearls studded in the dark velvet, like seeds sleepinginside the dirt, waiting for the burn of wildfire to crackopen. The impressions teeth leave inside her cheeks.

4 Poems by Joe Wilkins

Limp

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

Tiana Clark

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

1.

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

Nancy Reddy

In the Nashville airport, in gate C-84, in the industrial carpet and molded

plastic seats

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.