We mull on integration, the area under
a curve, derivation of asymptotes, how faint
neroli might approach an absent lover’s scent
and never be right. In October, a couple fight
about a cat, a stray. And having known
before that disappointment spreads in curls
across the lips—one relents. We wonder
at over-connection: that light shimmer in
distant space was once tupelo leaves
or orange blossom or seeds like miniature
pomegranates or small, angled mangoes
stylized on a kilim. That longing is a function
of geometry and time. That brightness—half-
particle, half-ineffable—might save us all.
First published in Sugar House Review (Vol. 11, 2019). Reprinted with permission by the author.
John Belk is an assistant professor of English at Southern Utah University, where he directs the writing program. His poetry has recently appeared in Crosswinds, Cathexis Northwest, Cheat River review, Arkansas Review, Wraparound South, among others. His work has been selected as a finalist for the Autumn House Rising Writer Contest, the Cathexis Chapbook Contest, the Autumn House Poetry Prize, the Comstock Writers group Chapbook Contest, and as a semifinalist for the Vassar Miller Award.
This morning I saw the sun
Give birth to a string of stars,
Laid like a garland atop the barbwire
Outside my window.
With one eye drowning in my flattened pillow,
I watched and counted.
Nine minutes from conception to death.
Nothingness, brilliance, nothingness.
An entire generation of light
Passed like morning wood.
First published in Rattle. Reprinted with permission by the author.
Ben Terry: “About three years into serving the sentence of life without parole, I had a King Solomon moment one morning where the shortness of life and wasted opportunity overwhelmed me as I stared out the window. Yet in short order I was forced to laugh, because apparently half of me seemed obliviously optimistic. I took a man’s life in 2005. I’m now serving a sentence of life without parole–meaning I will never be released. The death penalty is reserved for only the most heinous of crimes, for those people thought permanently broken. Life without parole is simply a slower version. It is an indemnity that says everyone who has it is incapable of change and void of hope. A supposition that defies logic and our very biology–the one that affords us the ability to hope. And if it’s true for me then it is true for you.”
Didn’t make it to the Mob Museum
You get your picture taken
in a lineup and it’s true no one
looks good in that light.
Made a point to stay
at the Golden Nugget so I could
see the golden nugget, they say,
ever found. Nobody’s ever tried
to rob this treasure, not as hard as a bank
vault if you get all the way to the bank
vault. The rock, the size of a washboard,
sat in a glass case surrounded
by mirrors and velvet in a place people
walk by to get to the next slot machine.
I did go to the Neon Museum,
a boneyard where lights go to die.
A gallery of the town: saved
the things that made Vegas Vegas.
at night they light the place up.
Make the stars disappear.
First published in Sugar House Review (Vol. 11, 2019). Reprinted with permission by the author.
Alexis Ivy is a 2018 recipient of the Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship in Poetry. Her first poetry collection, Romance with Small-Time Crooks, was published in 2013 by BlazeVox[book]. Her second collection, Taking the Homeless Census, won the 2018 Editor’s Prize at Saturnalia Books and is forthcoming in 2020. She is a street outreach advocate working with the homeless and living in her hometown, Boston.
The Shells of Bermuda by Peter Meinke
First the wind through the window lifting
this room with breath tugging the curtains waking
the flowers turning one by one slowly
the pages of old books Then the sun
through the windows glinting in corners
warming the tops of tables The cicadas’
shrill vibrations the woodpecker’s percussion
even the high whine of Mrs. Rheinhold
as she scolds her children: “Pamela! Paul!”
All necessary but the window most of all
There are moments in every day
when a hunger seizes and the hands
tremble and a wall turns transparent
or a cup speaks Suddenly
bright as the shells of Bermuda
the combs for your long hair blaze on the desk
From The Contracted World: New & More Selected Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2006) Reprinted with permission by the author.
Peter Meinke was the first Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg, and now is Poet Laureate of Florida. He has eight books in the Pitt Poetry Series, the latest being Lucky Bones (2014). He’s published two books of short stories, The Piano Tuner, which received the 1986 Flannery O’Connor Award; and The Expert Witness (2015). A collection of his essays, “To Start With, Feel Fortunate’” received the 2017 William Meredith Award. Other awards include a Fulbright professorship, 2 NEA Fellowships, 3 prizes from the Poetry Society of America, and many others. He and his wife, the artist Jeanne Clark Meinke, have lived in St. Petersburg for over fifty years. His most recent book, illustrated by Jeanne, is Tasting Like Gravity (U. of Tampa Press, 2018).
Cracks of Light by Helen Pruitt Wallace
We grind the last trunk of an old oak
lost beneath the bricked yard,
its roots buckling up, if not with hope,
at least a damp persistence. It’s hard
killing desire tangled in the musk among
these shoots. They braced us for years,
who are we to shear them? And how long
before the stump grinder gnaws
on our own deep want, coarsening
it to dust? What would we be
without thirst? O let that force
whetting all the earth spill new seed
while we, muscling toward cracks
of light, splinter, but grow back.
From Shimming the Glass House (The Ashland Poetry Press, 2008) Reprinted with permission by the author.
Former Professor of Creative Writing at Eckerd College, Helen Pruitt Wallace received her Ph.D. in English/Creative Writing from Florida State University, and now serves as Poet Laureate of St. Petersburg, FL and hosts the Dalí Poetry Series at the Dalí Museum. The winner of a Florida Book Award, Helen’s first collection of poems, Shimming the Glass House, was chosen for the Richard Snyder Prize and published by Ashland Poetry Press.
Copyright ©2020 by Constance Merritt. Originally published in Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Jan 22, 2020. Reprinted with permission by the author.
Constance Merritt’s most recent book is Blind Girl Grunt: The Selected Blues Lyrics and Other Poems (Headmistress Press, 2017). She serves as poetry editor for the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion and as food ministry coordinator at the Episcopal Church of the Advent in Louisville, Kentucky.
All the lemons lit in the kitchen bowl
seem softened by the sun, whose morning lull
illuminates your hands splayed
open on butcher block table.
Oh, what you can make with your hands,
and how I ache to witness
your wooden spoon mixing six
simple ingredients in a ceramic vessel.
Bake me a cake again. Place squash blossoms
and nasturtiums on the plate,
spread the pastry with sweet cream,
a meditative motion, slow and serene.
Mamma, once you made such gentle things
From Stray Harbor (Finishing Line Press, 2019). Reprinted with permission by the author
Rage Hezekiah is a New England based poet and educator, who earned her MFA from Emerson College. She is the author of Stray Harbor (Finsihing Line Press, 2019). She has received fellowships from Cave Canem, The MacDowell Colony, and The Ragdale Foundation, and is the recipient of the Saint Botolph Foundation’s Emerging Artists Award. Her poems have been anthologized, co-translated, and published internationally.
Sisters (for Melissa) by Kay Bell
or “what do you want to be when you grow up?” stories,
just grandma trembling,
seasoned with dilemmas,
looking for love and pain, in New York City.
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
First published in MOKO, Caribbean Arts and Letters. Reprinted with permission by the author.
Kay Bell is the author of the poetry chapbook Cry Sweat Bleed Write (Lily Poetry Review Books). She earned an MFA in Creative Writing at The City College of New York, where she was also the 2015 recipient of The Esther Unger Poetry Prize & the 2018 co-recipient of The David Dortort Prize in Creative Writing for Non-Fiction. Kay’s poems have been published in the book, Brown Molasses Sunday: An Anthology of Black Women Writers, The Lily Poetry Review, Moko: Caribbean Arts and Letters, Pithead Chapel and other venues. She lives in the South Bronx and is passionate about issues that affect marginalized communities and bringing the arts back into public schools.
Previous Love by Keith Althaus
think of blue sky
above us still,
of clouds here,
the starlit evening
there, and this one
that you might
on a street corner
after its long journey
across miles of ocean,
fields, and woods
that comb it,
take out the scent,
the taste, the sweet
there’s nothing left
of me or this place,
or just enough
to make you think,
standing on the curb,
waiting for the light,
of me, and us.
First Published in Sun Magazine (2011). Reprinted with permission by the author.
Keith Althaus is the author of three poetry collections, Cold Storage (Grid Books, 2016), Ladder of Hours (Ausable Press, 2005), though later subsumed by Copper Canyon, and Rival Heavens (Provincetown Arts Press, 1993). He has received a Pushcart Prize as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Massachusetts Foundation of the Arts. In 1969 he was one of the first Writing Fellows at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He lives on Cape Cod with his wife, the artist Susan Baker.
The Risk of Listening to Brahms by Michael T. Young
I like action movies for the same reason
I like Brahms, or undiluted scotch,
the constant flux of the sea,
or the sun’s light and heat stripped down
to raw fire, to the burning sine qua non,
like the first time I fired a gun and felt
deliriously naked and in that denuded moment,
remembered what I was chasing after when
as a teenager, without telling anyone,
I hopped on a bus for Philadelphia
and checked into the first hotel,
struggling to dodge those who knew me
to find if I wasn’t something more
than they expected, or could become
something other than they could know,
thrilled by the risk and uncertainty, the same
as when I hiked a mountain without water
on a humid summer afternoon,
trudging deeper into heat exhaustion,
the nausea stopping me every twenty feet
to gather strength from the pleasure
of wondering if I would make it home.
First appeared in Rattle #31 (Summer 2009. Reprinted with permission by the author.
Michael T. Young’s third full-length collection, The Infinite Doctrine of Water, was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award. His previous collections are The Beautiful Moment of Being Lost and Transcriptions of Daylight. He received a Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award for his collection Living in the Counterpoint. His poetry, essays, and reviews have appeared in numerous journals including The Los Angeles Review, One, The Smart Set, Quiddity, and Rattle. His poetry has also been featured on Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac.