I see the word ventricles and picture the octopus,
though its word is tentacles. A glass of red wine
makes it all so slippery. In a press conference
about the latest shooting, the chief investigator tells us,
“The situation is fluid,” and the Senators’ word is prayers.
To protect her eggs, the octopus risks it all, including
starvation. How does your mother remember your birth?
Difficult, mine was. Easy, my sisters. We forged ahead
that way for years though ultimately became adults.
And that word is mileage which makes us exactly
like everyone else. We’ve all had weeks where
the garbage men skip the house and the cable men
raise the rates. The word for no other options is subdued.
The official souvenir of this life will be a map of the sky,
the kind with lines connecting the stars. Or are those
bullet holes? Let us pray to the imagined octopus
for a moment of grace. My constellation is cephalopod.
All I need to know about anything is how it feels
when I hold it. And the word for that is tend.
First appeared in Crab Creek Review. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Carolee Bennett is an artist and poet living in Upstate New York, where she likes to say she has been the “almost” poet laureate of Smitty’s Tavern (placing as first runner-up in an annual contest). Her poems have been published in a number of print and online journals, and in 2015 her poem “On not shielding young minds from the dark” placed as a semi-finalist for the Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Prize. She has an MFA in creative writing (poetry) from Ashland University in Ohio and works full-time at a marketing agency as a writer / content manager.
Oil drips in the dark pit.
Like nervous sweat the wet
patch widens and I drop
in the match, watch it catch,
the flames low, slow, creeping
then a batter of wings.
I clang the door shut
against what is leaping
at me, look that no feathers
have fallen to the floor.
This is kindness which, kept
in its cast iron cage,
warms the small house, allows
me to undress, listen
to the midnight wind, sit
complacent as a rose,
while it exacts a price
so small I hardly notice.
“Kindness” appeared in Canary and is from The Ghost of the Buick (Berkley Poets’ & Workshop Press, 1992).Reprinted by permission of the author.
Bruce is the author of The Ghost of the Buick (1982), Wordrows (1975), and Less Power (1971) and has been published in many literary magazines. He was featured by the New York Times in 1976 when he made his living selling The Berkeley Poets Cooperative issues in Berkeley. Bruce considers himself a Truth Radical and feels that poetry is music rather than architecture. He is currently working on his next book, a compilation of poems from the last 50 years. He lives with his wife, artist Anne Hawkins, in El Cerrito, CA.
Do not bury it.
Stash it between your fingers
and in inconsolable hours
let it run.
There will be nights
when you will see even steel
dissolve under your touch.
“Grief” from How Many Countries Does the Indus Cross by Akhil Katyal (The Indian Poetry Collective, 2019). Reprinted by permission of the author.
Akhil Katyal is a writer based in Delhi. He is the author of two books of poems, the forthcoming How Many Countries Does the Indus Cross, which won the Editor’s Choice Award by The Great Indian Poetry Collective, and Night Charge Extra.
The Father Speaking Through My Son by Taylor Mali
My toddler son looks up at me and says,
as I have many times to him, You are my son!
His palm pressed against his chest to show
his sincerity—again, I guess, just like me.
No, you are my son, I say as I scoop him up
and lay him gently on his bed. He frowns,
and something in how he cocks his head says
he’s thinking, But that’s exactly what I said!
I give him a kiss and consider, while turning out
the light, how he might be right and his words true.
As if by some magic, at least for tonight,
the father speaking through my son is you.
“The Father Speaking Through My Son” from Late Father & Other Poems (Quercus Review Press 2018). Reprinted by permission of the author.
Taylor Mali is the author most recently of The Whetting Stone (Rattle 2017), a “life-affirmingly dark” look at the death of his first wife. He is also the author of Bouquet of Red Flags (Write Bloody Books 2014), What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World (Putnam 2012) as well as two other books of poetry, The Last Time As We Are (Write Bloody Books 2009) and What Learning Leaves (Hanover 2002). He received a New York Foundation for the Arts Grant in 2001 to develop Teacher! Teacher! a one-man show about poetry, teaching, and math which won the jury prize for best solo performance at the 2001 Comedy Arts Festival. He’s also a TED “Best of the Web” speaker and former president of Poetry Slam, Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees all poetry slams in North America. Taylor Mali makes his living entirely as a spoken-word and voiceover artist these days, traveling around the country performing and teaching workshops. https://taylormali.com/about/biography/
Natural History by Martha McCollough
A dry weaverbird’s nest
strung from a dry branch
& wolverine red stilt-legged wolf
spotted clouded striped
snarl of predators
midflight, heavy antlered
a dim room for the jerboa’s
little matchgirl ribs
hulk of mastodon
chiming sequence of horse fossils
lone glass bee
thirsty among so many flowers
frayed fawn curled in its case
in its air of alertness
in its pale twist of grass
Martha McCollough is a writer and visual artist who lives in Chelsea, Massachusetts. She has an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute. Her poems are forthcoming or have appeared in Tampa Review. The Baffler, Crab Creek Review, and Salamander, among others. Her chapbook, Grandmother Mountain, will be published by Blue Lyra Press as part of its Delphi series in the fall of 2019.
An Empty Cup, A Flight of Uncarpeted Stairs
by David P. Miller
after Edna St. Vincent Millay
at the Longfellow House, Cambridge
Writing plein air poetry on foot
in Longfellow’s garden. The last of April
tripping face first into green
from the top of March’s glacier.
No single metaphor can do the work
of these bumblebees guzzling dry
the white blossoms, after the lid
of long vernal cold is finally flung away.
Not only the low boxwood borders
struggling past tan, or spike-fingered
rose bushes and their cramped buds.
But also this fulcrum moment
before we become frantic for shade.
David P. Miller’s collection, Sprawled Asleep, will be published by Nixes Mate Books in the fall of 2019. His poems have recently appeared in Meat for Tea, riverbabble, Naugatuck River Review, HedgeApple, Gravel, Peacock Journal, Redheaded Stepchild, Jenny, and What Rough Beast, among others. With a background in experimental theater before turning to poetry, David was a member of the multidisciplinary Mobius Artists Group of Boston for 25 years. He was a librarian at Curry College in Massachusetts, from which he retired in June 2018.
I am from Logan Square
in Illinois there are tornadoes
In Chicago the city breathes too hard
we make our own disasters
If anything though
I am from the backseat of a Megabus
natural born asterisk
every claim is hesitant
if the bricks cannot remember your face
I am from somewhere
that is not my somewhere anymore
If I know anything it is this
any good survival
tries not to be anywhere twice
I can only sleep on buses
in shoes I can run away in
so I may never be from anywhere again
The low hum of nowhere
constant as I ride past
a road so green
it might convince you
the world is not dying
“Chicago” from Refuse by Julian Randall (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018). Reprinted by permission of the author.
Julian Randall is a Living Queer Black poet from Chicago. A fellow of Cave Canem, CantoMundo, Callaloo, BOAAT and the Watering Hole, Julian is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been published in New York Times Magazine, Ploughshares, and POETRY and anthologized in Bettering American Poetry, Nepantla and Furious Flower. He holds an MFA in Poetry from Ole Miss. His first book, Refuse (Pitt, Fall 2018), is the winner of the 2017 Cave Canem Poetry Prize and a finalist for the NAACP Image Award in Poetry. He talks a lot about poems on Twitter at @JulianThePoet.
Scrunch on your back under branches
to plunder the out-of-reach pulp.
Succumb to the pull of plump clusters,
their underslung, dusky abundance.
Then: blush as you dream lips
brushed by a lush mustache.
When a fuzzy leaf nuzzles against your cheek,
you’re a gurgling tot, a suckling glutton. O,
how to slurp up all this beckoning &
not get stuck, a drunk beneath a thorn bush?
“Blackberrying” from Fellow Odd Fellow (Trio House Press, 2014). Reprinted by permission of the author.
Steven Riel is the author of one full-length book of poems, Fellow Odd Fellow (Trio House), as well as three chapbooks, with the most recent being published by Seven Kitchens Press as runner-up for the inaugural Robin Becker Chapbook Prize. His poems have appeared in several anthologies and numerous periodicals. He is the editor-in-chief of Résonance, an online Franco-American literary journal.
On Why Poetry Matters: “Poetry allows for the communication of content that cannot be adequately conveyed in prose.”
Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I’m trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.
Maggie Smith, “Good Bones” from Good Bones: Poems. Copyright © 2017 by Maggie Smith. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Tupelo Press, http://www.tupelopress.org
Maggie Smith is the author of three books of poetry: Good Bones (Tupelo Press, 2017); The Well Speaks of Its Own Poison (2015); and Lamp of the Body (Red Hen Press, 2005). Smith is also the author of three prizewinning chapbooks. Her poems are widely published and anthologized, appearing in Best American Poetry, the New York Times, Tin House,The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. In 2016 her poem “Good Bones” went viral internationally and has been translated into nearly a dozen languages. Public Radio International called it “the official poem of 2016.”
Days After by Camille-Yvette Welsch
Blown apart, a split atom, burst
by desire, I come back together weeks
after birth, after delirious endless
nights, rivered milk, pumped bounty,
squall cries. On the shore, dragged up
from exhaustion, I rebuild and regather
all the lost dust, the ocher chips of paint,
the pulsing brain, the remembered longing.
River golem, I use the clay to seal the cracks,
round over breasts and hips, sharp clavicle,
knuckle, and bone. Now Venus of Willendorf,
pendulous and round, now Semele recycled.
After the light, I recreate myself,
this time as mother, watcher. As lost thought,
as the wall against which a cry is pitched,
echo and omega, more fragile than before,
hairline fractures along every edge, precious
core the light in the cracks. Memory of breaking,
memory of rebuilding. My fingertip pulled
along the cracks, my wonder at the holding seam.
First appeared in Zone 3. Reprinted by permission of the author.
Camille-Yvette Welsch is the author of The Four Ugliest Children in Christendom (The Word Works Press, 2019) , due out this month, as well as a chapbook, Full. A former Literary Mama book reviews editor, her work has appeared in Cream City Review, Mid-American Review, Indiana Review, and Menacing Hedge. She teaches writing at The Pennsylvania State University.