Caretakers —- died in 2009, 2010
2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
2016, 2017, one after another. One
didn’t show up because her
husband was in prison. Most others
watched the clock. Time breaks for
the living eventually and they can
walk out of doors. The handle of
time’s door is hot for the dying.
What use is a door if you can’t exit?
A door that can’t be opened is
called a wall. My father is on the
other side of the wall. Tomatoes are
ripening on the other side. I can see
them through the window that also
can’t be opened. A window that
can’t be opened is just a see-
through wall. Sometimes we’re on
the inside like a plane. Most of the
time, we’re on the outside like
doggie day care. I don’t know if the
tomatoes are the new form of his
language or if they’re simply for
eating. I can’t ask him because
on the other side, there are no
words. All I can do is stare at the
nameless, bursting tomatoes and
know they have to be enough.
First appeared in Poetry (July/August 2018) Used with permission of the author.
Victoria Chang’s fourth book of poems, Barbie Chang was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2017. The Boss (McSweeney’s) won a PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award. Her other books are Salvinia Molesta and Circle. She also edited an anthology, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation. Her poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, POETRY, Believer, New England Review, VQR, The Nation, New Republic, Tinhouse, Best American Poetry, and elsewhere. She received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship in 2017, along with a Poetry Society of America Alice Fay di Castagnola Award in 2018 for her manuscript-in-progress, OBIT. She also received a Pushcart Prize for a poem published in Barbie Chang. She is a contributing editor of the literary journal, Copper Nickel and a poetry editor at Tupelo Quarterly.
Her children’s picture book Is Mommy? (Simon & Schuster), was illustrated by Caldecott winner, Marla Frazee and was named a NYTNotable Book. She lives in Los Angeles with her family and her weiner dogs, Mustard and Ketchup and teaches within Antioch University’s MFA Program. She also serves on the National Book Critics Circle Board.
I am a million years expired,
and scientists chisel me from the earth.
What do they find? As they dust
these molars, do they know agony
looks like a head bound to split? That song
lived in my mouth. A hymn,
they call it. Phalanges clutched over my chest,
they name it a prayer, think I’d found some peace
in dying. They sweep dirt to discover
more dirt, more dirt, and then more dirt.
1 a : time that is to come. Grimacing hips. Graying.
Bone dwindling to sticks. My weaknesses dawning
on my daughter. Tomorrow, like today, until it’s gone.
The ground knows it will hold me. Hold those I love.
b : what is going to happen. Every cold-gripped fear
in my head. Fate. A country
of dying water, sickness in the sky.
All the ways our world will spiral. Behind the backs
of bad men, I tell my daughter: blossoms,
births, seasons. See also: Hope.
2 : an expectation of advancement or
progressive development. Light at the end,
a new sense of self. Sometimes you get a win.
3 a : the future tense of a language. I will
always be your star even after the sun explodes.
I will always be your star. I will always be.
I train my muscles to the trail, cache fear
under Lodgepole pine and cedar trees, strain
my eyes toward meadows, long views of Mt. Rainier,
its tonic of heft, no need to explain
these edgy worries: disappearing snow, spears
of lightning burning my western terrain,
sage, grass, grouse and house unspared, and cancer
spreading like a glacier in my sister’s
bones. Down the scoured valley, I sling laments
and howls, swallowed by the river’s pockets
of booming bass tones and surging boulders
that urge my lips toward the sweat-sweet intent
of kissing each blistered pain, each unlocked
moment, letting them go without refrain.
Originally published online in Persimmon Tree (Summer 2018)
Suzanne Edison, MA, MFA, is the author of The Moth Eaten World, published by Finishing Line Press. Poems can be found in: Persimmon Tree: About Place Journal: Rewilding issue; Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine; JAMA; SWWIM; What Rough Beast; Bombay Gin; The Naugatuck River Review; The Ekphrastic Review; and in the anthologies: Face to Face: Women Writers on Faith, Mysticism and Awakening, ed. Joy Harjo & Brenda Peterson; &The Healing Art of Writing, Volume One.
Auburn heat blushes. Breezes
burst summer swiftness into
slow chilled fall wind. It’s slow,
steady enough that I reflect
on all the synonyms of me.
Do I still don knit sweaters
like skin, let my feet crawl
under sidewalked leaves, breathe
and celebrate every inhale.
Every crunch. Am I still
a lover of Autumn? Deity of harvest,
next cycles, resets. Rebirth,
when optimism falls from my grasp the way
leaves reject branches of their trees –
dying before winter gifts
the next second chance.
What am I nostalgic for?
white apples and the taste of stone
Donald Hall, “White Apples”
The old master is dead,
his gravestone already marked
with lines from a poem
by his wife, whose peonies
blossomed and toppled outside
while he lay in hospice.
Soon his granddaughter will live
in the ancestral house looking out
at blue Mount Kearsarge.
Those curved ribs of old horses
buried in the field will again yield
their crop of goldenrod.
Dark clouds over Eagle Pond
turn white as the taste of stone,
white as white apples.
Originally published online in Rattle (Poets Respond)
Lynne Knight is the author of six full-length poetry collections, three of them prize winners, and of five chapbooks, three of them also prize winners. Her work has appeared in many journals, including Kenyon Review, Poetry and Southern Review. Her other awards and honors include publication in Best American Poetry, the Prix de l’Alliance Française 2006, a PSA Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, a RATTLE Poetry Prize, and an NEA grant. I Know (Je sais), her translation with the author Ito Naga of his Je sais, appeared in 2013. In March of 2018, she became a permanent resident of Canada, where she lives on Vancouver Island.
When I met your mother she was a fox
in a field. Your father smoked.
I don’t know where I go
when you cover your eyes.
Our sun sits in a watery sky but doesn’t sizzle or go out
when clouds cover it. Kid, you’ve got to keep asking.
What I don’t know may kill us both. Zoos and circuses
hold animals, not solutions. In this light
I am an island
of shadow across your kitchen floor
between you and the fridge.
You won’t cross over the dark
exaggeration of my shape;
I won’t move from the window.
No idea why falling stars drop or if they’re sharp. Listen
to me: don’t listen to me. By the time my wisdom makes
a dent your world has changed.
Just you looking at me makes me different.
First appeared in Crab Creek Review (Spring, 2018)
Michael Mercurio is a graduate of Lesley University’s low-residency MFA program. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Review, Crab Creek Review, and poems2go. He lives in the Pioneer Valley with his wife and two Miniature Schnauzers. He can also be found online at poetmercurio.com.
Catapult through hills
locking on air. So much of it
the lungs won’t take it in.
Then all’s a pinwheel, I’m
the pin. The girl
on her back
having a tantrum
on the drugstore floor
until her mother stands up and leaves.
The ladybug’s gunmetal
legs pedaling machinely
until they still
and fold. The body
is an envelope.
The air black
diamonds and helium
I’m far too far
Copyright©2018 Melissa Stein. Used with permission of the author.
Melissa Stein is the author of the poetry collections Terrible blooms (Copper Canyon Press, 2018) and Rough Honey, winner of the 2010 APR/Honickman First Book Prize, selected by Mark Doty. Her poems have appeared inPloughshares, American Poetry Review, Tin House, The Southern Review, New England Review, Best New Poets, Beloit Poetry Review, Harvard Review, North American Review,and many other journals and anthologies. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Bread Loaf, Yaddo, the MacDowell Colony, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and her work has won awards from The Pushcart Prize, Spoon River Poetry Review, Literal Latte, Redivider, and the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Foundation, among others. She holds an MA in creative writing from the University of California at Davis, and is a freelance editor and writer in San Francisco.
Have you seen a horse bite a man the skin splits
wide and clean where the horse’s broad teeth
hit his skull and for that the man sends a bullet
through the white star of her forehead
when the bullet pops through the star
the horse collapses head first
through one field into another
daylight guns the horizon into a pink blaze
and I fall through the horse’s blown star
back into the field where you stood facing east
calling me over like you’d found something
daylight guns the horizon and its vanishing point
collapses into the grass at our feet
you say couldn’t we do this without the horse
without the horizon without any bodies in a field
but have you seen a horse bury herself
she falls through the vanishing point in her body
and into a field she digs with her teeth
haven’t I seen this morning before
all pink edges and no stars and this horse
who was built for running but won’t and this man
trying to lift the light of her head
First appeared in 32 poems
There is only morning it shimmers
and shifts into bodies into beasts
into the man sleeping now waking in the damp grass
a jar of ashes at his side and the bulls still running loose though tired
inside his skull they ram here and there against its walls
as last night’s star-smeared sky spreads clean now and flat over him
jar in hand he walks toward the spring creek
its water draws a cold thrill through the meadow
and the bulls groan dark from their anvil heads
as he wades knee-deep into the current
he remembers the ashes back into his sister when she told him
loss is no more one thing than the sky is one thing
the pasture behind her eyes lay wide and empty
and looked like a place he could sleep
he tips the jar and lets the ash fall into the stream and the cold
rolls over in its bed over over
until she’s neither ash nor water
the stars the stars the bulls low behind his eyes
he forgets about the stream and the meadow
and nothing could be so empty as the jar in his hands
First appeared in 32 poems
Jan Verberkmoes is a poet and editor from Oregon. She’s currently a Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University and has poems forthcoming in The Paris Review, Bennington Review, and The Indiana Review, among others.