“It may not have been the rain at all.”

— Joseph Cornell (dream journal entry 12/11/61)

by Lee Potts

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.

Categorized as Poetry

I did not notice the birds

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.

Michael Sun (he/him) is a Korean American poet from the suburbs of Chicago. A graduate of Dartmouth College and attendee of the 2019 Frost Place Conference, his poems appear in Hobart After Dark, The Compass Magazine, and Bloodroot Literary. He is currently a medical student at the University of Chicago and tweets at @theprodigal_sun.

Categorized as Poetry

Swamp Thing Has a Change of Heart About Invasive Species

by Jack Bedell

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 ReviewPidgeonholesThe ShoreOkay DonkeyEcoTheoThe HopperTerrain, and other journals. His latest collection is Color All Maps New (Mercer University Press, 2021). He served as Louisiana Poet Laureate 2017-2019. 

Categorized as Poetry

The Capable

by Samantha DeFlitch

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.

Categorized as Poetry

Let’s Be Christian Soldiers: Activity and Coloring Book – 1950s

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
Christian soldiers
becoming acceptable
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
battlefields but
could maybe match
her “flaming spirit,”
being both woman
preacher and drama
queen. Let’s be
Christian soldiers
and never die.
Let’s be Christian
soldiers and forget
also how to kill.
Let’s be Christian
soldiers, enflame
our spirits with God,
with each other,
with tongue.

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

Categorized as Poetry

Having a Ginger Lemon Honey Chai With You

 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 and
the 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. 

Categorized as Poetry

Maggie, We Keep Driving

by Alina Stefanescu

            for Maggie S.

I couldn't sleep, my whole head
occupied by endings. Fear sounds the same
up close, every edge shares its lightning.

By morning, the kids want fresh muffins,
something sweet as the commercial
you've rehearsaled: this motherhood.

The cereal poured over a headache,
the happy voice you rent to make
going nowhere sound fun. In a car

with coffee, roads twisted by last night's
tornadoes. The chatter of blossoms, azalea
buds. It is spring in Alabama. The teen

son says geese have teeth on their tongues
which they use to eat souls. You believe it.
Roofs look up from the road. You drive slower,

you slow for hearses. The youngest child
hums; she counts colts in the meadows.
She dreams of riding a Palomino.

You love these kids more than mayo
on french fries, more than midnight,
more than your own mother loved you

which is the algebra of ashes. What is true
remains impossible to measure, or prove.
The littlest raises ten fingers and says

I am both hands now, mommy. I am two
but I don't know about being more. She
says her heart only hoped to be a horse thief.

Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her partner and several intense mammals. Recent books include a creative nonfiction chapbook, Ribald (Bull City Press Inch Series, Nov. 2020). Her poetry collection, dor, won the Wandering Aengus Press Prize and is forthcoming in July 2021. Alina’s writing can be found (or is forthcoming) in diverse journals, including Prairie Schooner, North American Review, World Literature Today, Pleiades, FLOCK, Southern Humanities Review, Crab Creek Review, and others. She serves as Poetry Editor for Pidgeonholes, Poetry Editor for Random Sample Review, Poetry Reviewer for Up the Staircase Quarterly, and Co-Director of PEN America’s Birmingham Chapter. More online at www.alinastefanescuwriter.com.

Categorized as Poetry

Milford Sound

by Stephanie Burt

               on Nathan’s birthday

Were the vertical layers made
Advancing or retreating

Why can’t you see
The glacier itself in the mist

Are we entering Asgard or Alfheim
Or Vanaheim where the friendlier deities

Of cultivating vegetables hang out
One soaked-through child loves the sea

The other wants to draw so many
Pictures of it	All of my paper gets wet

Spate or spatter of droplets forever
No one is judged	    Below the rainbow bridge

Under the roar the high amplitude the nonhuman
No one could sail	    This feedback this fiord

Moss and silver beech and assorted shrubs
Will flourish on the surface of the rock

Able to drink salt spray 			      He said
He loved it	     He also said I didn’t know

It would be extremely rainy	I didn’t know
The mountains would be covered in tears

Stephanie Burt is Professor of English at Harvard. Among her recent books are After Callimachus (Princeton UP, 2020) and Don’t Read Poetry: A Book About How to Read Poems (Basic, 2019). A new chapbook of poems about superheroes will appear from Rain Taxi Editions this year, and a new full-length from Graywolf in 2022.

Categorized as Poetry

Prayer for Saturdays (After Paulus Silentarius)

by Stephanie Burt

(Greek Anthology 5:219)
It’s better when you blush
	before you kiss me, better
if they don’t find out.
	Let’s tie each other’s shoes.
Let’s run a race we mean to lose.

	Let’s have a crush
that violates the spirit, but never the letter
	of the Comics Code,
where what you almost
	see is more important than what you can.

Let’s run together like melted butter
        under our shared cotton coverlet
tonight, and never let
        anyone tell us we’re brave, or foolish, or bold,
nor give each other reason to doubt.
        Let’s make each other toast
tomorrow morning. Get out your pocket
        calendar. Let’s make our sleepover plan.

Stephanie Burt is Professor of English at Harvard. Among her recent books are After Callimachus (Princeton UP, 2020) and Don’t Read Poetry: A Book About How to Read Poems (Basic, 2019). A new chapbook of poems about superheroes will appear from Rain Taxi Editions this year, and a new full-length from Graywolf in 2022.

Categorized as Poetry