Brennan Downey, “Sympathy Dart Frog”

orange line

Sympathy Dart Frog

I have to hire
a sympathy dart frog

to sit, and wait, in the palm
of my hand

to mutter the things
that feel strange for me to say

and so that I can effortlessly hand
to strangers this frog

when they are crying on the train, and
my body language

will convey something about
the universal nature of human suffering

instead of something about the
prevalence of human apathy

 


Brennan Downey is a wilderness therapy field guide in Vermont who was raised in Virginia and who once won an award for his laugh.


 

Tanner Lee, “Let’s Start with the Body”

orange line

Let’s Start with the Body

down to roots that suck the inner thickness
between your hip and collarbone—
if your entire body were a mouth
then pour me in like a cracked egg
—what flesh of you reaches down
with its churned, folksy swell
and hangs on an iron hook
above a man who thinks he owns
your right to nakedness. harp
of bones strung from yolky sinews
sweetened with honey pistil
I want to reach down and sing
the old familiar. The west of Eden choirs
that crackle your heartwood
until there’s a heaven in your hands
a pink-white crease
a wildness, a careful suture
of a thread that only unravels
to catch droplets
that couldn’t find ground.

 


Tanner Lee lives in Ogden, Utah, and studies at Weber State University. His writing has appeared in Hobart and Glass, and is forthcoming in The Comstock Review and Lost Sparrow Press. He is an assistant blog manager at The Blueshift Journal. Find him on twitter @heytannerlee.


 

Tyler Gabrysh, “The Escaping”

orange line

The Escaping

We climbed into the anytime night,
swept into the heavy forest like Jews escaping,
animals without worry of tripping
over freshly mounted headstones.

The hustling below hawkish owls
piercing us with their centrifugal yellow,
the brute trees quarantining us
through an unrelenting maze.

Thinking of safe cover
(imagining bear and wolf dens),
considering that if Buddhism is right,
we can indeed break our very minds.

And yet when darkness eventually lifted,
with our beds of moss and rock,
we thought only to reach
the river and map out a new future.

 


Tyler Gabrysh is a Canadian writer who has been a contest winner in Geist, Other Voices, and Open Minds Quarterly. He also writes his self-coined ALPs (alternate lyric poems), and his book reviews and interviews have appeared in several other publications. Among his inspirations are his two cats. He is yet another writer working on a novel.


 

Robert Nisbet, “Exam Room”

orange line

Exam Room

They’re known as ‘A’ levels, a test, a tilt
at adult standing, competition’s prize.
The young are safely gathered into rows
in a stuffy hall whose intermittent sounds
shuffle a wavering path round echoing space.

Teacher, invigilator, padding round,
believes (he really does) in love-of-learning
(that afterthought in education’s screeds),
but knows, in ten weeks’ time, he’ll map them out,
two A’s, three B’s. My pass rate. My results.

The pupils, concentration’s ants, scratch on,
minute by minute, in the silent hall.
Someone has just forgotten Darcy’s name.
Someone remembers, panicking, the steps
by which Othello’s wrought to jealousy.

The past two years included shafts and rays
of insight, happiness, the learning thing.
They’ll go now to their colleges, while he
recalls the mornings when the classes’ track
stumbled on unexpected grains of joy.

 


Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who taught English in high schools for over thirty years, and creative writing in higher education for a further twelve. His poems have been published widely in Britain and the United States, including San Pedro River Review, Constellations, and Verse-Virtual.


 

Mitchell Grabois, “Gus and Darlynda”

orange line

Gus and Darlynda

Looking for scratch paper
Gus rips a page from one of Darlynda’s
Victoria’s Secret catalogs

He figures she keeps them as a form of masochism
as she is hipless, flat-chested, and plain

He is no more attractive
with unruly reddish hair and a gangling walk

Now fifty, Gus knows they’re headed for ugliness—
he only hopes they get there tardy
as he always did to school

He still remembers Darlynda in second grade
hanging from monkey bars
a cute little sparkplug despite her buck teeth

This Victoria’s Secret model
has dark eyes and a midriff smooth as ice—
more appealing, he’s sorry to note,
than any current portion of Darlynda

Still, he recognizes that a fashion photographer with an airbrush
could probably make Darlynda sparkle
as she had when they got married, three decades back
on the shore of Lake Michigan
near their hometown of Windchill
where winters are more brutal than fate

 


Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over twelve hundred of his poems and fiction pieces appear in literary magazines in the United States and abroad. He has been nominated for numerous prizes. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook or as a print edition. To see more of his work, google Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois. He lives in Denver.


 

J. I. Kleinberg, “The Window’s Memory”

orange line

The Window’s Memory

I don’t know what the storefront
once displayed—pots and pans,
perhaps, or typewriters. Plumbing
fixtures. A dressmaker’s dummy
and a sewing machine.

Years later, when I moved there,
claiming the remnant air
and echoing rooms, the bay window
offered only the dark carcasses
of flies and curled shreds of wallpaper

flayed by the sun’s hard glare,
gold lattice on white,
water-stained and rippled.
What the sun had begun
I continued, pulling down wallpaper

and beneath it layer upon layer
of newspaper with narrow columns
of fifty-year-old news.
And that too I worried from the wall,
peeling strips delicate as sunburned skin

to reveal the eager reports of weddings
and scandals, the paper falling to flakes
in one place, hard as cement in another,
the stories already old
when they were pasted there,

already forgotten. The layers stuck
crosswise, one on the next,
indifferent as I scratched each
from the other, as if the one beneath,
or beneath that, might contain the truth.

 


A Pushcart nominee and winner of the 2016 Ken Warfel Fellowship, J. I. Kleinberg is co-editor of Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington (Other Mind Press 2015). Her poetry has appeared recently in One, Diagram, Otoliths, Poetry Breakfast, and elsewhere. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, and blogs most days at chocolateisaverb.wordpress.com and thepoetrydepartment.wordpress.com.


 

William Miller, “Hardy’s Soldier”

orange line

Hardy’s Soldier

His uncle dug
the body up
with a garden spade.

It was time to plant roses,
Spring in Wessex,
turn the ancient soil.

And there he was,
one spade at a time—
bones, breastplate, sword.

The neighbors came,
even the rector, to see
what was left

of an army that fought
the old tribes, claimed
this land for Rome.

Hardy was a child,
a young boy, and saw
the look on the old people’s

faces—fear mixed
with wonder. The past
was not the past

but the start of a new
season. What else was buried
beneath the soil,

the loose fertile soil,
layer upon layer?
He never forgot that day

or the soldier who
was a boy himself,
someone who

fought when he was
told to, died before
he met the girl

who gave him children,
a piece of foreign land,
a garden of his own.

 


William Miller’s fifth collection of poetry, Three Roads, was published by The Edwin Mellen Press in 2012. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Penn Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review. He lives and writes in the French Quarter of New Orleans.