L. Ward Abel: “Coat of Birds”

Coat of Birds

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L. Ward Abel’s work has appeared in Rattle, The Reader, The Istanbul Review, Snow Jewel, The Honest Ulsterman, Worcester Review, hundreds of others, and he is the author of three full collections and eleven chapbooks of poetry, including Jonesing For Byzantium (UK Authors Press, 2006), American Bruise (Parallel Press, 2012), Little Town gods (Folded Word Press, 2016), A Jerusalem of Ponds (erbacce-Press, 2016), The Rainflock Sings Again (Unsolicited Press, 2019), Floodlit (Beakful, 2019) and the forthcoming The Width of Here (Silver Bow, 2021). He resides in rural Georgia, and is a reformed lawyer, now teacher of literature.

Andrew Shields: “Early to Rise”

Early to Rise

Sleep can also come too easily,
and dreamlessness can wake you up at dawn
to a world where the birds have forgotten to sing.
The sun staggers up into the sky
behind bedraggled clouds that don’t know where
to put their rain. No rivers seem to want it;
the trees are ducking; the hills have nowhere to go
and nowhere to put whatever might be offered.
You should have stayed awake another hour,
until the nighttime breeze stopped being shy
and each mosquito in your room had had its fill.

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Andrew Shields lives in Basel, Switzerland. His collection of poems Thomas Hardy Listens to Louis Armstrong was published by Eyewear in 2015. His band Human Shields released the album Somebody’s Hometown in 2015 and the EP Défense de jouer in 2016. Twitter: @ShieldsAndrew   Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/andrewshieldspoems/

Sinead Delaney: “Needing to Knit”

Needing To Knit

I knitted another you, a tinier you, tiny for a variety of reasons. I wanted to make you big enough to hug but not so big that I couldn’t conceal you in my handbag. I couldn’t knit your feet, I hope you don’t mind. It seems strange to see you now, staring at me judgementally through your one button eye. I knitted you baby blue so you could be kind, like I imagined you were. I know you are calming because you’ve shushed me in my dreams. I’ve screamed out and tried to clutch you.

“Ssssh!” you hushed, your face scrunched up tight in disgust. You hated me then but that’s alright. I understand.

The room is scattered with many yous, all half-finished and crumpled on the floor. I wanted my first, and only you to be perfect. I know you wanted a body. I can feel your burning resentment following me from room to room. I couldn’t give you a body so I knitted you this. 

I’m regretting the colour now. It seems cold and reminds me of the sky, the vast space above me that jeers when I look up and try to look up and search for you.  I know you’re there but the sky has eaten you up. Some time, some place I will forget to look up and you will float by. You’ll think I don’t care. I care that you care whether I care, if you do. I’m just finding it tiring to search the sky.

Once you crawled on my bed and my chest filled with a sweet ache. You left as soon as I felt you, but I know you were there. If you return, I’ll still be sorry, I won’t act as if all was forgiven. You can hate me, as long as you stay.

I wanted to have you but I couldn’t. I sometimes wonder if my fear made you leave, before you were ready, and the thought makes me ashamed, that my baby couldn’t have a body.

Please accept my offering, Live in the doll. Even if you don’t move, I’ll know if you’re there. I’ll take you to the park and round the shops. I won’t just leave you in a shoebox.

You’ll be my doll. My tiny, knitted you.

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Sinéad Delaney is 30 and from rural Ireland. She enjoys languages and writing. She also enjoys stargazing when cloud cover allows. After lockdown, she hopes to go to beer gardens in the sun, and walk around the shops without fogged up glasses. “Needing to Knit” first appeared in Lockdown BabyBabble.

Russell Rowland: “Apology”

Apology 

You teased crocuses out of the soil,
beguiled goldfinches back to sing
at our window that it was finally spring—
but my heart strayed ahead to fireworks,
sparklers, and sunscreen’s frankincense.
I am sorry for my faithlessness.

You rubbed sunscreen on my shoulder-blades,
arranged for the lake to be as blue as sky,
donned a bikini unsuited to your modesty—
yet I opted to give myself to autumn:
pumpkins, sheaves of corn, swamp maples
going pyrotechnic. Forgive me please.

You cut jack-o-lanterns, raked brittle leaves,
dressed children up as heroes and royalty
for Halloween, gave me the leftover candy,
carried the harvest home. I snuck around
with a Flexible Flier, wore mittens sleeping,
text-messaged Santa. I fled your weeping.

You learned to ski, installed snow tires,
bought carrots and coal for the man of snow,
decked the halls with boughs of holly,
fa la la la la. I left you—wandered glades,
seeking tentative hints of green. I listened
for the early bird. I was that mean.

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Seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee Russell Rowland writes from New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, where he has judged high-school Poetry Out Loud competitions. His work appears in Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall (Encircle Publications), and Covid Spring, Vol. 2 (Hobblebush Books).His latest poetry book, Wooden Nutmegs, is available from Encircle Publications.

James Croal Jackson: “Talking Stand-Up Comedy in Pittsburgh”

Talking Stand-Up Comedy in Pittsburgh

It’s Kat’s birthday and the room laughs
at sad Neil Young songs opposite this
vibrant party. I meet Meeti who says
she has good jokes, bad presence.
She has grander aspirations. I tell her
I never planned to be in this city, either.
She needs a New York or LA. I came
from both & couldn’t hang. Birthday
spirit drifts in this room around us,
everyone having an amicable time.
We are, too, except we can only dream
of spotlights, butterflies, our names in
neon because we’d rather smoke quietly
in the dark corners of social gatherings.

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James Croal Jackson (he/him/his) is a Filipino-American poet. He has two chapbooks, Our Past Leaves (Kelsay Books, forthcoming 2021) and The Frayed Edge of Memory (Writing Knights Press, 2017), with recent poems in White Wall Review, Subnivean, and Thin Air. He edits The Mantle Poetry (themantlepoetry.com) from Pittsburgh, PA. (jamescroaljackson.com)