Let me drown deep. Let me be lost and found
inside this vase I once set on the ground.
Lopsided glass, quick-fused to a small base.
That’s easiest. Above it, thick, a crush
of softening flowers, cut in early hush
by servants of the palle who deferred
each choice to me. And then, all day, I looked.
The painter’s secret’s what the painter took,
her hours. Find in my work record of those
wherever leaf declines, where the red poppy
bright daffodil, smooth tulips and narcissi
subside with heads drawn downward by the dark
that blooms inside the vessel holding them.
Their water’s somewhat old and every stem
pressed up against the glass has lost its prime
but I these glories spent in saving mine.
Catherine Rockwood‘s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Reckoning Magazine, Scoundrel Time, SWWIM, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere. You can find her nonfiction and reviews in JMWW, Mom Egg Review, and Strange Horizons. Her poetry chapbook, Endeavors to Obtain Perpetual Motion, is forthcoming from the Ethel Zine Press in 2022.
Eros is everywhere. It is what binds.
She's young in age but knows her sage
She knows a page or two from the book of the luck
Like a probable god, I am
the archetype of a shape
small desires at the end
of my arms and nose
of houses and undone
hours against bone
This is a memory test. I am going to read a list of words
that you will have to remember now and later on. Listen carefully.
When I am through, tell me as many words as you can remember.
It doesn’t matter in what order you say them.
What happens against
a body occupied
a clock’s antidote to
a gone-village, gone
home for dispersion—
an absence, a little
string laid out
on life’s plank
on the phone
my mother worries
about her death, what
time it will be
who will care
who will take
green tea against life’s
childhood of rice
childhood of smallpox
of dirty water
and dead brothers—
her mother’s infection
impressing upon the
fabric of her body
like loose thread
I’m older now, she says
a little incantation as
permission to stay
the food between us
that she lets rot
I am going to read the same list for a second time.
Try to remember and tell me as many words as you can,
including words you said the first time.
What of a village?
My mother left
and returned twenty
years later to a hole in
her body, my body
like a net of
you can resist death,
but you can’t refuse
a little white lie
she says the first time
she saw the ocean
she was up so high
through blue sky
she moves slower
now and dyes her hair
what is an age,
but a finite template
for life’s choices—
to be still,
to love plainly,
or to survive
I will ask you to recall those words again at the end of the test.
Jessica Q. Stark, a native Californian, is a poet, editor, and educator living in Jacksonville, Florida. She is the author of three chapbooks, including her latest, INNANET: Love Poem for the Internet(The Offending Adam, 2021). Her full-length poetry book, Savage Pageant, was published by Birds, LLC in 2020. She is a Poetry Editor of AGNI and the Comics Editor for Honey Literary. She teaches writing at the University of North Florida.
I can see down into what used to be
a cattle dipping pond,
where at least one horse is buried
and lawnmower batteries rot.
I can hear geese. I can smell rooftops.
White knuckling the swaying
twenty-five feet high, this is also where I keep
my fog knife safe. Folded up
in the airstream. It rains. It is raining.
Great puddles of thinking just deep enough
to please the bright Indian Runner
and the weight of some fat Muscovy. Water
seeks gaps in suet. To ruin the bird’s seed.
To keep me in bed. To yawn all over me.
I begin churning clarity
the moment I hear thunder on the way,
bouncing over the surface
of the forest’s ready ministries. They have settled
and spread out as a fog at twenty-five feet above the valley floor.
It still rumbles. Now the thickness
of dawn and its sister,
an overfed cat, join me
at the top of the swaying naked pine.
We sway. We are swaying.
We never know where to go with this
moment. We never know where to go with
this top-heavy moment. Like three
sedate Harold Lloyds.
Accidentally going on with things. Slicing nothing.
Bryan Moats lives in rural Arkansas with his family of five. He is a farmer, illustrator, volunteer firefighter, writer and former editorial art director for the Arkansas Times. Find Bryan on Twitter @BryanMoats or Instagram @brynomite.
The Milky Way, like crumbs on top
of a vast galette—studded
with ripe planets, like figs—
how you have enjoyed
everything you taste;
as you pass Alpha Centauri,
please, find a radio signal
sent to us by the sulphur beings
of the horsehead nebula,
and into their code add instructions
for tasting this last bottle
of the wine you left behind
Rachel Trousdale is an associate professor of English at Framingham State University. Her poems have appeared in the Yale Review, the Nation, RHINO, and Diagram, among other places. Rachel is the author of the poetry chapbook, Antiphonal Fugue for Marx Brothers, Elephant, and Slide Trombone, and her latest critical book, The Joking Voice: Humor and Empathy in Twentieth-Century American Poetry, is forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Find Rachel on Twitter @rvtrousdale.
I’ve mistaken the specks and threads floating
in my old eyes for crows against storm clouds.
Rain interrogates the shape of everything
it falls on and finds the sword hidden
in every monument’s history. But once it ends
there’s always a catastrophic forgetting.
The rain becomes rivers, the skies always clear.
We’ll see constellations cross the ancient stage
for our tiny applause tonight. They always hit
their marks. I’m a man. I’m allowed to forget
about my own body. To even forget that it’s bound
to dissolve like some soft gritty pill under
God’s own tongue.
Lee Potts is an Orison Anthology nominee with work in Firmament, Rust + Moth, Whale Road Review, UCity Review, Parentheses Journal, Sugar House Review, and other journals. He is poetry editor at Barren Magazine and his first chapbook, And Drought Will Follow, will be released in April 2021. Lee lives just outside Philadelphia with his wife and their last kid still at home.
by Michael Sun
It was raining. It was raining that late fall rain, just-shy-of-snow kind-of-rain.
Gray sky, so I was watching my feet kind-of-rain. The kind of rain that puddles
shallow in the sidewalk, makes slick the faded reds of stamped-down leaves,
so I watched my black sneakers, toe over toe. The bone-chill rain washed out
my memory of warmth, the two cups of coffee in me gone cold, so I walked
down 53rd with my hands in my blue raincoat, and my head down.
I did not notice the birds until they flew up past me.
Gray and brown birds that must have been pecking for food. Those sparrows,
juncos, or finches – or whatever they were – they must have been there
the whole time. But walking with my head down, in the rain, my hands
in my blue raincoat, I saw the earth rise. I saw wings lift from dirt.
From nothing, from nowhere, which is to say, I wasn’t paying attention
because of the rain. Because my head was down, and when I looked up,
they had already gone, dissolved beyond fences. And I wasn’t even that
depressed, I just wasn’t paying attention, and the birds, the birds flew
from nowhere and surprised me so, so surprised I had to tell you about it.
I confess, I wasn’t looking for wonder, didn’t even want it this rainy morning,
but it happened. I am so happy it happened. A flight of birds from nothing
gone to nowhere, and oh, if you see me weep this time I swear it’s joy.
When I was a man, I used to sit on the end of the dock fretting over hyacinths and nutria clogging up the bayou. I had genuine dread over tiger shrimp wiping out our local species. Now, hidden in the palmettos, I watch government skiffs putt downstream with agents cradling their guns and dropping depth charges into the water, and I can’t help but root for the carp leaping at their helmets, can’t stop praying for the snakeheads here to grow large enough to pull these men out of their tents at night and drag them into the water for safekeeping.
Jack B. Bedell is Professor of English and Coordinator of Creative Writing at Southeastern Louisiana University where he also edits Louisiana Literature and directs the Louisiana Literature Press. Jack’s work has appeared in Southern Review, Pidgeonholes, The Shore, Okay Donkey, EcoTheo, The Hopper, Terrain, and other journals. His latest collection is Color All Maps New (Mercer University Press, 2021). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019.
Through the rain-haze, the tollbooth appears
heavy on the land, asking so much, demanding.
The night extracts. The rain-could-be-snow
takes our final dime. We could be gentle, here:
the lagging deer can, given time and necessity,
clear the berm. Once, even God slowed down
their car on the turnpike and waited for the lame
animal to pass. A wild and elemental moment for
God, who knew, and knows, and will know when
all things die - but in this moment, gentle goes
the passage, and it its own time. This is just to say:
I, too, am worthy of the holy moment, this kind
dimming of the headlights amid deluge and asphalt.
Please: don't deal me out. Name me capable and
point my body where the road will guide me home.
Capable: it means bringing food to the children
without hope. See: I drag my leg behind as I push
pills past the dog's throat; worthy woman trudging
through a remarkable life. Overhead, hanging
far beyond the Pittsburgh smog and rain, stars
have come out in real soaring spirals and the deer
has taken up some yowl. A tired animal, and soft with
eyes saying please: I was here. Don't forget about me.
Samantha DeFlitch received her MFA from the University of New Hampshire, where she is the Associate Director of the Connors Writing Center. She is the author of Confluence (Broadstone Books, 2021). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Missouri Review, Appalachian Review, On the Seawall, Driftwood Press, and Hobart, among others, and she is the 2018 recipient of the Dick Shea Memorial Award for Poetry. She lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire with her corgi dog, Moose.
by Megan McDermott
I am ready to detest you
until the Etsy listing
shows me your Joan
of Arc illustration,
and I am swept up
in a moment of
girl power feminism
and/or bisexual swooning
for my imagined
crush: Joan, the saint
I would date if I had
to date a saint. Onward
if it’s me and Joan.
Yes, let’s be. Me and
her both “brave, bold
heroine”s, though I’ll
wear a dress and let
my hair swing across
my lower back. I
would bumble on
could maybe match
her “flaming spirit,”
being both woman
preacher and drama
queen. Let’s be
and never die.
Let’s be Christian
soldiers and forget
also how to kill.
Let’s be Christian
our spirits with God,
with each other,
Megan McDermott is a poet and Episcopal priest living in Western Massachusetts. In 2018, she graduated from Yale Divinity School with a certificate from the Institute of Sacred Music, an interdisciplinary program dedicated to religion and the arts. Her debut chapbook Prayer Book for Contemporary Dating will be out later this year from Ethel Zine and Micro-Press, and recent poems have been published in The Night Heron Barks, Miniskirt Magazine, 8 Poems, and Amethyst Review. Find out more at meganmcdermottpoet.com.
by Saumya R. Kedia
after "Having a Coke With You" by Frank O’Hara
Is even more fun than going to Bombay sans return ticket
or being late on a deadline again, or forgetting our
belongings but never giving up the hope that they
will return to us. Partly because in your banana
shirt you look like a modern mermaid who
has discovered the inanity of clothes, partly
because of my love for you, partly because
of your love for ramen, partly because of
Sonipat skies and their continuous sunset,
partly because of our private eye rolls
that reveal more secrets than they keep,
it is hard to believe when I’m with you
that other people are not as transparent
ergo allowing light through isn’t a function
of personhood. In the mess lawns, at five o’
clock, we whisper as if the red bricks have
cameras for cement, photographs have face
recognition…and I wonder why in the world
did we as a species want to be seen so badly.
I look at you and thank god that you are not
a photograph. The photos of our mothers are
enough. We come visit them together. And the
fact that you dance so freely after a glass of gin
and tonic more or less takes care of rhythms andthe fact that you nap on the grass with me ensures
that the ginger lemon honey chai has been drunk,
the strawberries well-eaten, and the metre sung.
Behind the Dhaba, I never think of my mother
in her bony frame, faded blue denim pants
with contrast stitching matching her t-shirt,
and brown belt, and what good does all the research
do when she couldn’t go to fashion college because
of tuberculosis and an overprotective father. Or for
that matter the red bricks who wish to be sky blue,
which is why I want to tell you how grateful I am.
Saumya Kedia is a writer from Mumbai, India. She is finishing work on her first manuscript of poems. You can find her @saumyakedia1 on Twitter.