Matt Dennison: “Waiting Room”

Waiting Room

Sitting in the groggy
Saturday morning clinic,
we watch the lucky couples
exclude the solitary woman,
huddle together wearing
black glasses, slight disguises
of bright swallowed laughter,
time slowly circling the room,
one by one stripping masks
from sideways-whispering faces,
exposing forward-facing fear
as the outer door opens
and the solo woman rises
to meet her husband above
averted eyes and hug
her delivered children
for gladly laughing yes
she is pregnant
again.

 


Matt Dennison is the author of Kind Surgery, from Urtica Press (Fr.) and Waiting for Better, from Main Street Rag Press. His work has appeared in Verse Daily, Rattle, Bayou Magazine, Redivider, Natural Bridge, The Spoon River Poetry Review, and Cider Press Review, among others. He has also made short films with Michael DickesSwoonMarie Craven, and Jutta Pryor.

Louie Cronin: “Compliant”

Compliant

Baby boomer turning 70, ok exaggerating a bit, I’ve got five more months. Of wearing masks, checking case numbers, primping for Zoom. My friends are all gray. I only see them on Zoom, or outside, bundled up, triple vaxed, windswept. I can’t afford to go gray. Went wrinkly instead, aged fast, chasing Sandy, who drowned at 22, always in a hurry. My period dried up at 45. Blamed it on ciggies, though I quit 10 years before, when Barry died, an old man of 29, struggling up the stairs at Times Square. Got my period at 11. Thought my life was over then. Maybe it was.

Work? Happy to get tossed out, though I hadn’t saved enough, who has? Now I’m aging into the high-risk pool, 68, 69, 69 1/2… I see how the baby doc looks at me, fumbling for my reading glasses. Old girl needs an EKG, a lipid panel. Would you consider eating healthy? Me? I used to rollerblade here, you little fuck! Everyone around me is deaf. I’m ok, unless I’m with young people, or watching movies with the captions on, narration buried under effects. I’d lose my job for that. Oh, right, I did.

Sad to see my brother with a cane. My father used a broom or a putter, died anyway. My mother was compliant, as am I. As I will be. She put on her big bifocals, stocked up on hearing aid batteries, used a cane then a walker then a transport chair. Her sister Gert fell putting in eyedrops, her sister Mary rolling up her hair. My husband installed railings this Thanksgiving. I was fine without them but reach for them just the same.

I get tired so early or am I just bored? Another meal to cook, another night to endure, streaming Netflix, trying to read a book. Wine tonight or detox tea? So many steps before bed. Sonicare, pick, floss, cleanser, serum, antiaging cream. PFFFT! And God forbid my pajama bottoms cinch — my stomach has forgotten how to squeeze, dinner lingers, threatens to turn.

Wait! Stop that. There’ll be no turning yet. There are red berries on the prickly bushes; the bay peeks flat and silver through the trees. There are stacks of cut wood and the fireplace draws like mad. There are baby boys on the West Coast and a baby girl on the East, getting onesies and picture books from distant aunties they can’t yet conjure.

Fucking plague stole two good years. Or slowed them down enough that I might notice.


Louie Cronin’s novel, Everyone Loves You Back, was a semifinalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award. Her fiction and essays have been published in Compass Rose, The Princeton Arts Review, Long Island Newsday, The Boston Globe Magazine, and on PRI.org. She formerly worked as a writer/producer for Car Talk.

Darren C. Demaree: Three Poems

Emily as Regret or Premonition

She was right. I
harbored
an apocalypse element

in my solitary thread.
To want
any revolution at all

is to offer up a stabbing
moment of pleasure
that gambles

the landscape it creates.
No matter. I’m
a coward for her.

I take myself to her
bells. I leave the rest of it
to become rope

without me.
All this muscle
& only play-burns.

*

Emily as Grain, in the Old Way 

Y’all should stop
fucking around
with these more

intimate voices.
There’s too much
death beneath

the crop to hide
our joy amidst
a goddamn canon.

*

Emily as Hollering

You ever see fire
overtake
a birdsong?

The whole county
can taste it when
the right woman

says hello
to emptiness
with real joy.


Darren C. Demaree‘s poems have appeared, or are scheduled to appear in numerous magazines/journals, including Hotel Amerika, Diode, North American Review, New Letters, Diagram, and Colorado Review.

Alex LeGrys: “The Pursuit of Happiness”

The Pursuit of Happiness

we all know that at the beginning of every country road
sits a dilapidated farmhouse, with tick-infested boxers and
golden retrievers, barking for attention while their
owners fail to pay the electric bill yet buy designer
sunglasses every holiday season

but there is a garden shed in the middle
of every country road filled with moldy teacups and
empty liquor bottles and milk snakes slithering
with one another, waiting for the day to come when
Tiresias tramples them as they copulate—
snickering as their own pain gives rise to
seven years of involuntary womanhood

as this event transpired I would stumble
from the country road’s first house, where I’d
have been arguing with rednecks about tax policy
and how they were only hurting themselves
each time they cast red in a ballot box—
they’d tell me to get off my cross and funnel
cheap red wine down my throat

Tiresias would turn to me leaning
against the shed, shrinking at the milk
snakes and vomiting red slop over their
love-making

in a decade we’d meet again on
another night of my half-hearted attempts
at following Christ with ritz crackers
and gas station merlot and pleading the
construction workers to collectively bargain

and as I’d sit in the dirt, shivering at
the serpents, he’d tell me how lucky I was
to be a woman– how much better men are at
pleasing women than the other way around

his only punishment for such nonsense
was never to have to see snakes fuck
again– and that, is perhaps the male condition
I’d tell him– the punishment always
winds up being the reward.


Alex LeGrys is 20 years old and attends Bard College. Her work has appeared in Apricity Press, Better than Starbucks, Fire Agate Press, Modern Literature, and Blue Lake Review.