Swimmer For Hire
I saw a woman I used to know
and when I knew her we were kids
on the swim team. We used to
put Jell-O mix on lemons and limes
or sometimes if we didn’t have
Jell-O mix we’d use sugar … in-between
races at swim meets. It was for
extra energy. We used to carry the
Jell-O mix, the sugar in empty
Cool Whip containers. This was
before energy drinks and bars and
huge jolts of caffeine in tiny
aluminum cans. This was before
underwater radios or MP3 players
and underwater cameras. We rode
our bikes to the pool or to the movies
parking them on the bike racks
outside. Those bike racks are gone.
The movie theatre condemned.
The swim team disbanded.
I saw a woman I used to know.
I didn’t tell her that I don’t swim anymore.
LB Sedlacek is an award-winning poet and author with poetry and fiction appearing in many different journals and zines. Her latest poetry books are The Adventures of Stick People on Cars (Alien Buddha Press), The Architect of French Fries (Presa Press), and Words and Bones (Finishing Line Press.) She is a former Poetry Editor for ESC! Magazine and also co-hosted the podcast for the small press, “Coffee House to Go,” for several years. She teaches poetry at local elementary and middle schools and publishes a free resource for poets, “The Poetry Market Ezine.” In her free time, LB enjoys swimming, reading, and taking guitar lessons.
The Discrete Wife of Calamity
lives with four dogs. Bruno, Brutus, Bluto
and the Boy. The Boy is not a puppy. None
of her boy friends are young pups. Only
the painting of a blue and white mastiff
on the wall has dignity and wisdom. She’ll
build a fence when she leaves him. Invisible.
In ground. Electric. Like the chair that fried,
was it Sacco & Vanzetti? Yellow Mama.
Texas? Boston? Or the last woman put to death.
Here. Her car used to park in snowbanks. Icicles
Through the sun roof. The yellow convertible
never made it off blocks. Like her brown hair
yellowing with age. Pretty woman. The way her eyes
reflect the sound of rain. Her dogs surround
her essence of fulfillment. Madame. Madam
moseil, Paray vous? Down on the farm.
A pretty cup. Ewer. Olla. Sheep’s milk. Cheese.
She set her ass in the butter tub. Licking his
fingers. On her knees. His knees. Some
body’s knees. Oh, the slap of a blue black
bruise, the sting of his cheek on her palm.
That fine reproduction secretary he built
spins out its drawers, rolls back its top to tip her
inside. She locks herself in with some poet’s book.
Poet? Of butter, melting in her mouth.
Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle, and JAMA. Her recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.
At the End
If something still remains of me, and wakes
when earth or fire slides the animal away,
Do I dwindle in a smaller, thinner air?
Do I keep my memory of skin
where the new light touches me like wind?
Will the sky be white
with objects that move gently
as a fall of snow or pages, pleasing me?
Will there be colors and a sun?
Small birds on straight, dark, blooming lines,
eyes leveled, staring outward?
Or will I simply fall—one of many
shrieking in the light that chars
the sinners dropping in a shriveled sky?
Will I find the old myths true: Angels, judgment,
a black pit—and for a few the marvelous
blue light that widens upward like a hand?
The believers rising as if shaken out of sleep
in the pulsing sands of Heaven,
the strange colors beating everywhere.
And none of it mine. No tool. No sign.
No hill of words that I could make or rake away
to level the mistake of disbelief.
Patricia Nelson is a former attorney who has worked with the “Activist” group of poets in the San Francisco Bay Area. This is a group of Neo Modernist poets. Her most recent book is Out of the Underworld, Poetic Matrix Press.
She walked away from the room numb
oblivious to the days that would come after, there would be consequences
to letting them touch her, she
there would be some. There would be
voices in the dark for years, flashbacks of hands
the sink of dread at the click of a door latched shut
sleepless nights. If I could have been there
I could have told her that even this all goes away
tell her about the better men she would meet
the children she would have, the way her husband would
hold her in his arms while they slept
years into their marriage. I would tell her
not to worry, not to regret
the singular, awfulness of that one short afternoon
that all roads, for her
would still lead to perfection.
Holly Day’s poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review. Her newest poetry collections are In This Place, She Is Her Own (Vegetarian Alcoholic Press), A Wall to Protect Your Eyes (Pski’s Porch Publishing), Folios of Dried Flowers and Pressed Birds (Cyberwit.net), Where We Went Wrong (Clare Songbirds Publishing), Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), and Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), while her newest nonfiction books are Music Theory for Dummies and Tattoo FAQ.
Stuck outside of Bakersfield at a truck stop
at night with the temperature at ninety-nine
with a few coins and a broken credit card
facing into the wind because turning my back
made my shirt like a sail, the smell of parched earth
and sere grass so strong I fought even the thought
of a match and words like ignition, passion, or strike,
saw a snake come to the asphalt on the dark side
of the lamppost, stretching as if to cool, and a crow
that landed a few feet away spreading its wings
for a brief moment of air conditioning.
I tried to sleep standing, waiting for morning
and Shell to authorize my card, but when dawn came
found myself sprawled on the pavement
like a drunk or a victim of a drive-by,
snake missing, crow coming closer,
more beginning to land.
Jeff Burt lives in California with his wife amid the redwoods. He works in mental health. He has work in ucity, Eclectica, Rabid Oak, and Williwaw Journal. He was the featured 2015 summer issue poet of Clerestory, and won the 2019 Heart poetry prize.
The Last Church
A radio playing loud then soft
_____allegro melting to adagio
__________as its batteries wither
as particulate clouds redden
_____when the evening comes seeking a shadow
__________under yellowed leaves
as smoke rises over what once
_____were glowing coals
__________before the rain fell
as a bard recites poetry from the pulpit
_____and lovers leave their graves
__________to be buried in pews.
Toll the bell in the steeple.
_____Man has lived his day
__________and the sun sets.
Barry Green is retired and lives in Ashland, Virginia. He had a number of poems published in the 1970s, ceased writing for 40 years, and is now back at it.
Let’s have an argument,
embellish our stances
with golden tongues and defiance.
Climb up the tattered fence
of history and say trite phases
like the truth of the matter is.
Make reference to statistics
and research-driven articles
from academic journals and the Times.
This is the same game we once played
at recess. Go ahead, jump over
two ropes swinging in opposition
until you trip over your own feet.
Maureen Sherbondy’s poems have appeared in The Oakland Review, Prelude, Calyx, and other journals. Her forthcoming book is Dancing with Dali (February, 2020—FutureCycle Press). Lucky Brilliant, her first young adult novel, will be published in September, 2020. Maureen lives in Durham, NC. www.maureensherbondy.com
Karl Miller‘s writing has appeared in numerous periodicals, including RE:AL, Portland Review, and Cold Mountain Review. His play, A Night in Ruins, was produced Off Off Broadway in 2013; “Elena,” a novelette, was published in 2018. A 2016 Best of the Net nominee, Miller lives in Coral Springs, FL.
I am sorry we argued.
We mime our morning ritual
of coffee, burnt toast and honey.
I don’t want to leave like this.
When I return,
you grip me like a glass of Beaujolais
that could slip through your hands.
You get drunk on me.
Marjorie Sadin is a nationally published poet with poems in such magazines as The Little Magazine, Blaze Vox, Big Windows Review, and the Jewish Women’s Literary Annual. She has five books of poems in print including a chapbook, The Cliff Edge, and a full- length book, Vision of Lucha about struggle and survival, love, death, and family. Recently, Marjorie published a new chapbook, Struck by Love. She lives and reads her poetry in the Washington DC area.
Situational awareness is just so important. Even a momentary lapse can result in a 9-year-old in a black-and-white striped Halloween costume being mistaken for an actual skunk and shot. Now crime scene technicians in full-body coveralls are photographing the bloodstains on the front walk, dusting for prints, scooping shell casings into evidence bags. As the shooter gets dragged off in handcuffs, his wife collapses on the ground, convulsed by sobs. What is inside is going to come out despite the efforts of a nice neighbor to calm her. And the moon? It looks exactly like the blade of a scythe.
The old woman who told fortunes in a booth on the boardwalk turned the last card over. King of spades. She frowned at the card. Then she predicted I would die screaming, but screaming in the voice of the opera star she called Placebo Domingo. Nowadays the more that is reported, the less everyone actually knows. Ninety-nine percent of humans have been inducted into the bedlam of complex systems. When machines operators are overcome by fatigue and confusion, the machines are capable of operating themselves. Anyone can get a gun. It takes a white whale with a grudge to use it.
Mother died in the “nuthouse,” as people called it then. I might be better known today if I didn’t have such difficulty talking about it in something other than code. All these years later, searchlights are still probing the sky, supposedly for a ghost squadron of kamikaze pilots, but who really knows what’s going on? It could be the government is afraid every airplane flying overhead will crash. I lost my faith in portable electronic devices when missionaries went looking for souls to convert among horses and dogs. I imagine it was a strange time, too, to be a poodle.
Howie Good is the author most recently of Stick Figure Opera: 99 100-word Prose Poems from Cajun Mutt Press. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and Unlost.