B. Fulton Jennes
Mani G. Iyer
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Martine van Bijlert
Amy Ralston Seife
I live in a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. Marilyn and I have been in the same house for over 31 years. You can leave our house and take a right, then a left, then a right, then another right, and you can drive into the parking lot of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church. The trip would take you about 3 minutes. The church is tucked up in a wooded lot on the corner. Let me tell you that you could do worse than to end up there. The church’s reputation is impeccable. It’s quiet, unassuming, and not a place where they try to separate parishioners from their money. They just gather, and worship, and study, serve others, and welcome the stranger. John Archibald, a columnist here, wrote that, when he visited, he felt “a kindness and warmth, the sort of welcome you can reach out and pick from the air and hold in your heart. It was real, tangible.” Two weeks ago, a “strange but somehow familiar” man who had dropped by the church occasionally attended a small potluck gathering of seniors. He sat alone. Bart Rainey, age 84, went over and invited him to join his table. The man declined. Others reached out to him, to no avail. The man then pulled out a gun and shot and killed Bart Rainey, 84, Sharon Yeager, 74, and Jane Pounds, 84. The 70-year-old gunman, who ran a custom firearms business out of his house—also close to my home—is in custody. If your recent experience is anything like mine, I hope you’ll forgive yourself for not having heard about this shooting. I don’t know how to feel about this, but I find myself having things like this happen: Someone on the news will mention, say, the Buffalo mass shooting, and ask myself, “now which one was that?” We appear to have reached a point that the random murder of three elderly people in a southern suburb will be a hard one for people to remember if they don’t live here. Not to mention all the murders that hardly even make the news at all, particularly when the victims are people of color in cities. Increasingly, for a mass shooting to get encoded in my memory, there’s some body count that has to be met. Some unnameable threshold of horror. A few elderly church members? Many never heard about it. Back to St. Stephen’s. The murders occurred in the parish hall, completed in 2014. While being constructed, parishioners wrote messages to be in the permanent foundation of the facility. Here’s one:
These murders are of individuals but, increasingly, they seem to me to represent the slow murder of a nation. Or maybe its suicide. There’s a painful and mostly rhetorical question people sometimes ask, which I ask now. What has become of us? This past weekend NBC Nightly News ran a special report in which reporters were out in a few American cities on Friday night, on the scene of various deaths by gunfire. One of the people they followed was Pastor Donovan Price in Chicago. He's a "street pastor" and he goes immediately to the people who have lost a family member to a shooting. At the scene of the murder. At the hospital. The reporter asked him why he does it. Fighting back tears, Pastor Donovan said, "I've been blessed to be loved. It's important that I love now." Dale
Blue antelope poem
This is a blue antelope poem. I found tattooed on my lover’s thigh. The poem reads: I am a blue antelope. I used to live in a place called The Cape of Good Hope. Now, I live in your lover’s dreams. She nourishes me with milk-flowers harnessed from your mouth. Where my horns should grow I have two rose stalks.
B. Fulton Jennes
My Dying Sister Turns Her Face from Spring
Oldest and bravest, she stood between him and the weak, fearlessly faced the maw—finger that stabbed, salvo of needle-sharp spittle. Now forsythias yammer yellow at her, daffodils mock her for what she cannot do. I pull the blinds, plant myself between her and the ferocious, unstoppable green.
Mani G. Iyer
Dead Letter Box
India's diversity includes twenty-two languages with their own alphabet, each spoken in several dialects. This poem is dedicated to K.A. Krishnan, my polyglot uncle, translator at the Bombay General Post Office in the 1950s.
They come from villages,
letters wives and mothers dictate
in many shades
to scribes of the color,
letters wives and mothers destine
for the men who left home
to feed their families.
They never reach the migrant men,
letters pronounced dead
while still carrying:
births not rejoiced,
love not requited,
hunger not sated,
maladies not known,
deaths not mourned.
The Time Had Come
Someone gave me a gift today
someone with a rushed voice
and a mythical history
someone with an appointment
at a bank
to catch a ferry
someone with a father
dying with a beautiful and very old
someone with a deep knowledge of art
someone with prestigious
degrees someone without
with a longing for love
She said Promise to write in it
She said Handmade paper
She said I’ve had it for you
I Hate These Mountains
Mynyddoedd Cambria, Cymru
the slate-black lakes the wet fold and twist I hate the reeds the tumps of mudstone, the peat I hate the flat-eyed, ironic sheep that stand on top of walls I hate the kite I hate the common toad I hate being human in this land-scape
—for Franz Wright
There was a hush you followed, and a match you struck in dark. There was time and no time left—they call it eternity. You walked toward a lone smoke signal on the far side of the mountain, and flew free of your name—A heart, your heart, at last, became night.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
Our relationship was space junk falling from orbit, defunct. Our love was an auto-da-fé and I was the heretic who survived by believing in ersatz certainty dragging outworn passion behind me like tin cans behind a wedding car in a black-and-white ’30s movie
Wendy Taylor Carlisle
First it Happened, then it Went on Happening
Time went on holding its breath like the moment before Io became a cow The first hour of a cease fire The lull in a hurricane. Those days we were closed in waiting for Uber Eats washing our hands. When we declared them over it was too soon. That was the spring the cat died and the birds came back cardinals and wrens to interrogate the new norm the hummers later fighting among themselves
The Tattoo Parlor Calls Repeat Customers "Meat"
This poem is a butterfly Tattoo—trashy blue Like night on a face. I woke up adding a clacking grey bead to the string, but it was a pretty grey, I decided to bottle it— clouds and voice and all So that when I flex my wrinkled arm One torn wing falls Like a petal Pressed into a book I have just unearthed
Martine van Bijlert
I keep thinking of the fig
tough skin giving way under teeth tiny parts that move like little bones there’s birdsong outside and clanging in the kitchen breadcrumb in the garden that has been ignored and the sun dapples the grass and the succulent on the table has survived winter and then spring it reaches for the sky with long arms like a dancer holding a single pink flower
In the rooms we rent the floors are old; the bowed slats swell with heat & shrink with cold, at odd hours releasing unseen snares for our uneven feet. We fetch the needle, clean it with a candle, go digging through each other’s skin, returning at times with the expected— at others, a bloody fragment neither could predict.
If you’re lucky, you’ll live long enough to outlive all your friends. This is what luck looks like in the upper echelons of age. Sunglasses, umbrellas, nail files— don’t get too attached. I wish my childhood dog back, a fat husky who wasn't allowed upstairs. Mother kept a brisk, scoured house. The old dog would call from her rag rug down in the basement, "Woe. Woe," twice, deep and low. Sometimes she’d stare just past my shoulder at something only she could recognize.
In college, we stayed up all night to witness
sunrise, crept into the football field to play tag
in darkness, killed time at Dora’s Diner,
where pancakes tasted best at three a.m.,
for the certainty of it—how stars lost
command of sky, moon surrendered,
first hints of morning landed
on undersides of clouds—
to be proven right
before our eyes
I was born in the rain and dark. “Cure me or kill me,” I begged the doctors in attendance. But apparently only when silent was I fit to be heard. I’d been assembled by someone who couldn’t be bothered to read the assembly instructions. Seventy years later, I look in the mirror and see bits and pieces of a stranger’s face—a long, fleshy nose, protuberant eyes, a domelike Shakespearean forehead. My now-grown children stand well off to the side, uncertain whether to huddle or flee. As I tentatively approach, I clutch a rose, shoulder-high, like a dagger.
Colder now: not everything comes back to you when the frost collects. But I remember my father tall at the board, hands softened in the dawn and moving like waves. I woke to steam, pressed pudgy legs into pants still hissing with heat. Somehow he always got the timing right. Though there are many words for love, I can write it only like this: all those days, I never left the house cold.
Baseball bats and picnic blankets. Dinner out under the apple trees. I swing at fruit you bite once then pitch.
Amy Ralston Seife
in blue mesh snood & latex gloves palm-cradles each cup before it leaves the factory. 978 ceramic mugs, each with 5 beige butterflies trying to escape the heaviness of fired clay. at 4:13 p.m., barely visible in the pinched fluorescence, an infinitesimal crack bisects the wing of butterfly #2 on cup #647. the fingertip that skims the grainy surface once rubbed the rim of a candlelit glass and made it sing.
THE SWEETNESS of Edna
“Call me Edna, it is my name”
she wore like a blouse.
Covered with flowers from where she came.
Against visions of a rising tide.
She drives a jeep.
Her breath catches.
Out of voice, words crack: she wears her sorrow like a shirt.
she talks about her daughter.
Her routine on silent feet: brings toothbrush & cup.
I tell her I’m an author.
She sits by me on the bed, no mask.
"You are the first Jewish person I have ever known.”
The sweetness of Edna.
Sky turns amber of matzoh golden, landscaped, unleavened.
THE DARK SUBLIME is reversible.
The crowds may not give a damn.
But silence among old friends is a dark hovering mass of umbrellas in November rain.
This is a contest of global stamina.
Is love’s endurance
Tarnishing at the edges? An oval portrait, an envelope with ink babies
Blurred: hospice, holy holding:
I think my way back
The long hard road
Of daily breath, amazing grace it takes to reach forward or back to the dark sublime.
Butcher’s Block Crude
Fuss with the garlic fettucine and fennel Knock over the bottle olive oil sloshing Plaster flakes flutter down from the ceiling Far out a fighter jet crashes the barrier and it’s oil bloody oil does the running today
Jane Pounds, Walter “Bart” Rainey, Sarah Yeager
Tanja Bartel is a poet and teacher whose work has appeared in Unbroken Journal, The Puritan, We are One: Poems of the Pandemic (anthology), Poetry in Transit (the Vancouver, BC transit system), and many other venues. Her first book, Everyone at This Party (Goose Lane Editions), was published in 2020.
Wendy Taylor Carlisle (she/her) lives in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the author of four books and chapbooks and is the 2020 winner of the Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Award for The Mercy of Traffic. Find more of her work at www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com,
Follow her @wtcarlisle.
Mary Cresswell is from Los Angeles and lives on New Zealand's Kapiti Coast. Recent books: Fish Stories: Ghazals and glosas (Canterbury University Press) and Body Politic: Nature poems for nature in crisis (The Cuba Press, Wellington). Also see: www.read-nz.org/writer/cresswell-mary/
Joanne Durham is the author of To Drink from a Wider Bowl, winner of the Sinclair Poetry Prize, (Evening Street Press 2022). Her chapbook, On Shifting Shoals, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. She lives on the NC coast, with the ocean as her backyard and muse. https://www.joannedurham.com/.
Alexander Etheridge has been developing his poems and translations since 1998. His poems have been featured in Wilderness House Literary Review, Ink Sac, Cerasus Journal, The Cafe Review, The Madrigal, Abridged Magazine, Susurrus Magazine, The Journal, and many others. He was the winner of the Struck Match Poetry Prize in 1999.
Howie Good is pumping up the volume.
Mani G. Iyer is deaf-blind due to Usher Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder. He was born and raised in Bombay, India and resides in Massachusetts. His recent publications include Naugatuck River Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, Sonic Boom and a chapbook, I Am the Dancing (Yavanika Press, Oct 2019).
B. Fulton Jennes is Poet Laureate of Ridgefield, CT. Her poems have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. Her first published collection, Blinded Birds (Finishing Line Press, 2022), was recently named Winner of the International Book Award in the poetry chapbook category.
Christine Kwon lives in a yellow shotgun house in New Orleans. She is the 2022 winner of the Cowles Poetry Book Prize. Her first book of poems, A Ribbon the Most Perfect Blue, is forthcoming from Southeast Missouri State University Press in 2023.
Réka Nyitrai is a spell, a sparrow, a lioness's tongue—a bird nest in a pool of dusk. She is the recipient of a Touchstone Distinguished Books Award for 2020 for her debut haiku volume While Dreaming Your Dreams (Valencia, Spain: Mono Ya Mono Books, 2020).
Aaron Magloire is from Queens and studies English and African American Studies at Yale University. His work can be found in the 2021 Best New Poets anthology, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere.
Nolen Price is a first-year student at Susquehanna University pursuing a degree in creative writing. He has been previously published in Rivercraft Magazine. He was born in Texas and now resides in Pennsylvania. He mainly writes poetry and hopes to make writing into his career.
Amy Ralston Seife, an award-winning short-story writer and poet, is the editor-in-chief of The Westchester Review. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence and an MA in English Literature from Yale.
Hilary Sallick is the author of Asking the Form (Cervena Barva Press, 2020) and Winter Roses (Finishing Line Press, 2017). She teaches reading and writing to adult learners in Somerville, Massachusetts, and she is vice-president of the New England Poetry Club. To learn more, go to hilarysallick.com.
Lynn Strongin’s homeland is America. Her adopted country, Canada. She has twelve books out, work in over forty anthologies, and has been nominated for a Lambda Award, two Pushcart Prizes, and the Pulitzer Prize in literature. Lynn's chapbook from Right Hand Pointing, Slow Dark Film, is available. To order: Dale at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Martine van Bijlert is a poet, novelist and non-fiction writer who grew up in Iran, lives in the Netherlands and, in between, worked as an aid worker, researcher and diplomat, mostly in Afghanistan—a country she still closely follows from afar. Find her at www.martinevanbijlert.com
Gareth Writer-Davies is from Brecon, Wales.
Aleksander Zywicki is a recent graduate of the MFA program at The New School. He teaches poetry and AP English in Bayonne, NJ. His work has recently been featured in The Inquisitive Eater and Concho River Review. He lives in Montclair, NJ.