Terry Trowbridge: “Atropos”

Atropos

When I cut my hair I will bury it
in the stream behind my parents’ house
so that the bog will digest it.
It will lace together the
dreary bacteria and cold peat
and be the anchor for frog eggs
and the hibernating smell of toad holes in the winter.

When I cut my hair I will leave it
under a tall tree so that birds
will weave their nests from it.
Embryos will grow in my wooly warmth.
Later, abandoned to the branches
crows will pick at it, wasps will pack mud
on the balled up clogs, squirrels might tie
them around packages of walnuts.

After I cut it and find a spool,
I might count my hair, one a day,
to find out if I have more hairs on my head than days left to live.
Or I might string them over a loom in a ritual
with some disregard for colours and a need for earthy smells.


Terry Trowbridge’s poems have appeared in The New Quarterly, Carousel, subTerrain, paperplates, The Dalhousie Review, untethered, The Nashwaak Review, Orbis, Snakeskin Poetry, M58, CV2, Brittle Star, Lady Lazarus Experimental Poetry, The American Mathematical Monthly, Canadian Woman Studies, The Mathematical Intelligencer, The Canadian Journal of Family and Youth, The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics, (parenthetical), Borderless Magazine, Fine LInes, and many, many more. His lit crit has appeared in Ariel, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Episteme, Studies in Social Justice, Rampike, and The /t3mz/ Review.

Stephanie L. Harper: “Winter Poem”

Winter Poem


Stephanie L. Harper lives and writes in Indianapolis, IN, where she earned her MFA from Butler University. Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine, North Dakota Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Night Heron Barks, The Dodge, Crab Creek Review, Resurrection Magazine, and elsewhere.

Jakima Davis: “Talk to the Politician About Tea and Poetry”

Talk to the Politician About Tea and Poetry

I’m a natural reaper
I till the land
My harvest was taken away from me
Trade in my fruits
For the blood of the enemy
Tea and oil
Slaves and politics
The drums will come

I was told to go back
Where I came from
From New York to Africa
This is my land
From the goldmines
To the diamond mines
Pick the cotton and sugarcanes
Cut down the trees

This is where I come from
From the honeybees
To the bridges and mountains
The mothers and fathers
Sisters and brothers
The seas and oceans
Tug at my coat
Coat of Many Colors

Somebody talk to me
Electric love and peace
Haters keep on hating
Crack a grain in the bottle
Tears and fears
Put a grain in my mouth
But I don’t taste anything
This is where I come from


Jakima Davis writes, “I made my debut in 2000. Published three chapbooks and a broadside. I’m working on a haiku manuscript, and expecting a full volume soon. I’ve been published in underground publications. This is my fourth appearance in Big Windows.”

 

Holly Day: “Attempt”

Attempt

I had just stepped into the street when I felt myself getting yanked back
thought someone was trying to save me from getting hit by a car but no
the kid I’d been talking to for the past block
was trying to steal my purse. I grabbed the strap
threw my weight into it
tossed the 20-something onto the ice where he almost fell
before running off.
“You shouldn’t be so friendly with strangers,”
my husband said when I joined him on the other side of the street.
“You might get hurt next time.”
When we got home, I ordered a set of knives
all different sizes, to wear around my neck and shove in my pocket
because next time, I’d be the one on the offensive
I’d cut the hell out of the person trying to steal my purse
send them to the hospital
or at least make them easy to identify.
When the knives came in the mail, I practiced how I’d carry them
wore one around my neck for a week just to get the feel of it
practiced drawing it quickly out of its sheath, made stabbing motions
I would be prepared.
After a while, though, I started worrying about the person
who might try to rob me, wondered what would happen
if I accidentally killed them, some kid my son’s age
slit their wrist and let them bleed to death
put out an eye and blinded them for life.
“I just won’t talk to strangers anymore,”
I promised my husband, without mentioning all the knives
I’d been hiding in my purse, wearing as jewelry
slipping into my pockets whenever we left the house.
“I’ll just be super unfriendly, and it won’t be a problem.”


Holly Day’s writing has recently appeared in Analog SF, The Hong Kong Review, and Appalachian Journal, and her hobbies include kicking and screaming at vending machines.

John Dorroh: “Distortion”

Distortion

I want to know a little something,
why no one understands how the build-up
of wax in an ear clouds what they see in the bottom
of a tea cup

those clumps and frays of wet leaves
mean everything to those who know how
to read. are the instructions not clear? too cryptic?
for the sighted only?

i beg to display what the doctor pulled out
how he laid it on a tiny metal plate
for me to see. There’s the problem, he said.


John Dorroh continues to write poetry about dreams, snippets of conversation, deaths of his dogs, being a nosy neighbor, and other unexplained things that pop into his head. Three of his poems were nominated for Best of the Net. Others have appeared in journals such as Feral, River Heron, Shark Reef, and Selcouth Station.

M. A. Schaffner: “Passing Through En Route to Nowhere Better”

Passing Through En Route to Nowhere Better

How much ginseng should one expect
in a bottle from a vending machine,
or luxury in a discount motel,
or France from its continental breakfast?

I don’t mind — this is my habitat when not at home,
comfortably generic, the staff furtive
if not helpful — we’re all assholes to our backs
and in that sense equal before the raw
anxiety of underpaid labor.

Any other citizenship remains
an elusive memory from an age
before we ground the seed corn and set fire
to the last of the unsold furniture.

My mind’s still clenched like my toes
from a four hour flight to the same damned place
spread over the Potemkin boulevards
that pass for public squares — each kiosk
a variant of the same six warehouses.

Each worker sweats through a store-bought smile
as a few blocks away the roads break up
to dwindle into nests of invasive weeds,
the double-wides aping the pressboard mansions.

Ambition’s an artifact of reality shows,
an absence of despair, but in its place
faith in the ill intentions of the Other,
and here a visitor, bringing the same
conceit of normality, believing

somehow in restoration, as if
we could just find a world we agreed on.


M. A. Schaffner lives with spouse and pugs in a house built cheaply 110 years ago in Arlington, Virginia. Their work has recently appeared in The MacGuffinIlluminationsThe Writing Disorder, and the anthology Written in Arlington. Earlier appearances included Poetry WalesPoetry Ireland, and The Tulane Review. When not avoiding home repairs through poetry, M. A. wades through the archival records of the Second United States Colored Infantry (1863-66) with a view toward compiling a regimental history.

Kushal Poddar: “Gardening with My Daughter”

Gardening with My Daughter 

Sun rays erect a wall
behind us,
and on that canvas
I and my daughter
paint an orchard.

The bonsai town
sprawls around.
Our garden is the giant.
I have seeds on my palm.
Our voices explaining
soil and sun sink the traffic
of the toy cars left beyond
for this moment.


An author, journalist, and father, Kushal Poddar, editor of Words Surfacing, has authored eight books, the latest being Postmarked Quarantine. His works have been translated into eleven languages. 

Stephen C. Middleton: “Water Torture”

Water Torture                                                                                           

Before the plague
Raw hands wept

Allergy, OCD
& conditions dormant this quarter century
Skin porous

Even water
Caustic on infected eczema

Chapped & ripped as I slept

Or: the very minimum of requirements
_____(Expectations floor level)

From here to Flint, Michigan
Far more than trace elements

Allodynia
Water torture
‘Not on the face’


Stephen C. Middleton is a writer working in London. He has had five books published, and been in several anthologies. He was editor of Ostinato, a magazine of jazz and jazz related poetry. He has been in magazines worldwide, including in the US, Australia, Canada, the UK, & mainland Europe.

Bryant Smith: “Visitation”

Visitation

White horse, red birds, and black dogs
My Aunt Betty’s favorite animals, she’d say
In a wood-paneled sitting room filled with trinkets
Each creature immortalized in painted ceramic

My Aunt Betty’s favorite animals, she’d say
As we sat sticking to the vinyl couch
Each creature immortalized in painted ceramic
Watching us while we made small talk over the blaring TV

As we sat sticking to the vinyl couch
Will this be me someday?
Watching us while we made small talk over the blaring TV
My apathetic offspring

Will this be me someday?
Talking about nothing to fill the time
My apathetic offspring
Watching the clock and eyeing the door

Talk about nothing to fill the time
In a wood-paneled sitting room covered in trinkets
My apathetic offspring:
White horses, red birds, and black dogs


Bryant Smith is Associate Professor English and Spanish at Nicholls State
University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, USA. He is a lifelong learner and
recently completed a graduate course in poetry. Various poems and a
reflective essay resulted from this course.

Joe Giordano: “The Pursuit of Happiness”

The Pursuit of Happiness

“Are you happy?” Felecia asked.

Vance expressed surprise. “What sort of question is that?” 

She nibbled the chocolate cake before her, then laid down her fork, gazing at the horizon as she savored the flavor. 

The aroma made Vance’s mouth water. “How can you stop at one bite?”

Her eyes returned to his. “Would you like the rest?”

He raised his palms in denial. “If I started, I’d want the entire cake.”

She smiled. “You might find a taste more satisfying.”

He huffed. “I doubt that.”

“Even after a good meal, don’t you relatively quickly want another?”

“Sure.” 

“Eating is a fleeting pleasure.”

“But natural and necessary.”

Felecia chuckled. “Not a whole chocolate cake. Reducing the urge for unnecessary things eliminates unhappiness over unfulfilled desires.”

“How do you define unnecessary?”

Felecia mused. “You’ve just released a video that went viral on TikTok. I’m wondering how you feel?” 

Vance frowned. “Happy but not satisfied.” 

Felecia shook her head in disappointment. “Your video is trending, and you can’t take more than a moment to enjoy the achievement?”

Vance leaned back, kneading his chin. “I need a second hit. Something to top the first. But my mind’s a blank, and in a week, people will forget me.” 

“You’re pursuing fame?”

“Yes, but becoming an ‘influencer’ also has financial rewards.”

“How much money would make you happy?” she asked.

“Enough for a penthouse in Manhattan, a Ferrari, vacations in Europe, and a private jet to get me there.”

“Wow. Your net worth will require a lot of zeros.”

Vance nodded. “I suppose.”

Felecia scoffed. “Society induces false beliefs about what we need. Vain desires like power, wealth, and fame are insatiable. Past a certain point, they add little happiness.” 

“I can’t agree. Anyway, what’s your answer?”

“I rather focus on tranquility and freedom from fear.”

“I don’t want to die a one-hit wonder.” 

“Fear of death causes unnecessary anxiety. There’s no Heaven or Hell. Don’t worry about it.”

“What about God?” 

“God exists but isn’t involved with humans. He has zero troubles, so why get involved with people who might bring Him down?”

“What about the ethics of doing good versus evil?”

“Live a virtuous life to avoid the pain of not doing so and the societal consequences of your bad behavior. But a fear of God causes unnecessary trepidation.” 

“You still haven’t told me your formula for happiness.”

“A self-sufficient life surrounded by friends you can count on.” Felecia’s eyes held Vance’s. “Especially, a soulmate.” She paused before continuing. “Better to dine on bread and water with a friend than to eat chocolate cake alone.”

Vance took Felecia’s hand. “I enjoy being with you.”

She squeezed back. “The mind misunderstands happiness. There’s a diminishing return on pleasure – say another viral video. Chasing yet another hit, you’ll continue to be tormented that you might lose your popularity, blunting exaltation at your achievement.”

With a sigh, Vance released Felecia’s hand. “Perhaps, I’ll never be happy.”

 


Joe Giordano’s stories have appeared in more than one hundred magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post and Shenandoah, and his short story collection, Stories and Places I Remember. His novels include Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, and the Anthony Provati thriller series, Appointment with ISIL, Drone Strike, and in June 2022, The Art of Revenge

Visit Joe’s website at https://joe-giordano.com/