John Muro, “Garter Snake”

A two-time nominee for the 2021 Pushcart Prize and, more recently, a 2022 nominee for Best of the Net, John Muro is a resident of Connecticut and a lover of all things chocolate. He has published two books of poems: In the Lilac Hour (2020) and Pastoral Suite (2022). Both books were published by Antrim House. John’s poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Acumen, Barnstorm, Clementine Unbound, Grey Sparrow, and Sky Island. Instagram: @johntmuro.

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Garter Snake

It slept as a knotted snare doubled
upon itself before startled to quick-
silver pouring through the narrow crevice
of wall, slipping beneath a phalanx
of phlox and a bed of crushed gravel.
Divining tongue led the dark ribbon
of body toward the mineral smells,
sweet sap and bright patter of water
falling over stone and a frantic
slither carried it as far as the middle
of the road before another type of
sleep, wind-combed, left its delicately
plated skin and its petal-pink mouth
turned skyward, as if it were a lotus
blossom drinking in the last rays of sun.


Gemma Rosenthall, “Agency”

Gemma Rosenthall is a senior at DePaul University in Chicago, where she’s studied communications and creative writing. She’s been published in Crook & Folly (DePaul’s literary magazine) and in McSweeney’s. When she’s not hostessing at a restaurant downtown or studying, you can find her walking down side streets to marvel at the beauty of Chicago’s architecture, playing convoluted pranks on her friends, and collecting small things (like mouse bones from an owl pellet) that make people feel vaguely uncomfortable upon entering her apartment. Otherwise, you can find her reading and writing about social identity, the uses of imagination, pop culture, and historiography.

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Agency

Oh, there you are,
I say to me,
pushing through this dilated morning

after I left myself alone
in so many rooms
my shadow became a mansion.

Let the sun clean the snow,
cope the cold,
take the hem of memory
down into some velvet future

where I iron safety
between my teeth,
knit prescience
with my tongue.

I leave flowers on the mansion’s mantel &
wipe dead ladybugs from its windows,
white as unripe strawberries.

I feed myself cake from my yesterday hand &
lounge on my bones,
my own commodious furniture.


Will Reger, “The Hunger”

Will Reger has worked as a poet over the last twelve years. He has published online and in print, in the US and the UK, and has read his work in assisted-living communities, classrooms in the K-14 ages, correctional facilities as an invited guest, and many other scenarios, including public library readings. He is the inaugural poet laureate for the city of Urbana, IL, and has published two volumes of poetry. He also plays the nan xiao and the dong xiao for entertainment.

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The Hunger

Sometimes I wish I was a library,
with wide tables and reading patrons.
I would be the books themselves,
or rather the vast ethereal knowledge
that streams through them without
shape or direction, leaking into minds
that come too close–I could go
anywhere in the comfort of a mind.
I could fix a sink or love a wife,
use all the verbs in French or quote
poetry from the ancient Romans,
pass through the eyes of the world,
ever the playmate of consciousness,
at home but always homeless,
forgotten but recalled over the years,
the privilege of the Caucasian West,
the hunger of the African child.
I could wait at the door of death
and recite every man’s prediction
for what comes next.


Jackie Olsen, “In the World, Of the World, All the World”

Jackie Olsen is a poet and writer of stories and essays living in Colorado. She loves all the seasons, including dandelion season, bug season, and snow plow season.

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In the World, Of the World, All the World

In the vivid, sloppy wonder of peach season
I am quite manic, a springing creature of the deep forest
eating my fill of the peak of the year, eating!
Eating all the shoots, all the bounty, all of it, all
bound up in the glory of the light, so much light–

It will stay forever, this light, it promises
endless feasting and rutting and running
long languid days in the shade,
still and fertile, hidden, vibrant.
And the green! Verdant green,
overwhelming, overtopping last year’s brown,
shameless and slutty, this green.
It sustains this everlasting season in pounding heat–

Over shimmering pavement, the doe delicately
minces with her fat baby, as
traffic stops, in salute to the small wild things–

The things of summer, the fleeting green season
When, fecund and ripe, dripping with sweet love
a peach is mine, all mine, envelops my hands,
devoured dripping over the sink.

 


 

 

 

Jared Carter, “Wraith”

Jared Carter’s most recent book of poems, The Land Itself, is from Monongahela Books in Morgantown, West Virginia. He lives in Indiana.

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Wraith

O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost,
       come back again,
Out of the utter darkness. Most
       abandoned when

The self prevailed, we knew not where
       to turn. Sustain
Us now, indemnifying air
       and sun and rain

And all that signifies belief
       in less, not more,
In what is there—a stone, a leaf,
       an unfound door.

—after Thomas Wolfe, American novelist (1900–1938)


Hélène ZiXuan Wang, “Woman at Her Toilette”

Hélène ZiXuan Wang is a young writer and poet born and raised in Beijing, China. She showed an interest in the arts since a young age, and is known to incorporate elements of music, dance, painting, and foreign languages in her poetry. Her education at an international baccalaureate school fostered a dash of duality in her voice: multicultural yet grounded within herself.

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toilette

Berthe Morisot. Woman at Her Toilette, 1870-1880. The Art Institute of Chicago.

Woman at Her Toilette

Was the world separate or all in one?
Flowers flew in my toilette forever.
I wore a white dress and felt like a white swan.

Where had I ended and where had the room begun?
Silk, tulle, blues, lavenders…all seemed silverly lit.
Was the world separate or all in one?

Blond feathers for a swan, pink blush for a human,
I hid these secrets in my hand; the mirror never knew.
I wore a white dress and felt like a white swan.

Thin air pirouetted on my skin; brushstrokes ran.
I faded as a ballet fell away behind my back.
Was the world separate or all in one?

In a dream, I was a swan painted by a woman.
Air never dried my wings, it softened her hand.
Was the world separate or all in one?
I wore a white dress and felt like a white swan.


Ann E. Wallace, “Remember this”

Ann E. Wallace, a poet and essayist from Jersey City, New Jersey, is author of the poetry collection Counting by Sevens (Main Street Rag). She has previously published work in Clementine Unbound, as well as in Huffington Post, Wordgathering, Halfway Down the Stairs, and many other journals. Follow her on Twitter @annwlace409 and Instagram @AnnWallace409, or read her work at AnnWallacePhD.com.

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Remember this

That even in this wrenching
week that has taken so much,
and always, there is movement,
bits of life that stutter and grow,
or quietly hum along, as they should,

that there are cherry trees turning
from showy pink to steady green,
that orioles are landing in
our gardens, filling their spring-
time bellies before flying onward,

and that, as a student’s gentle
prodding reminded me, this knot
of heaving pain will soon soften
and spin itself anew into a sacred
web of memories, mine and yours,
that, once shared, will nourish
and carry us through our sorrow.


Michael Jones, “Holdings”

Michael Jones’s poetry appears in journals such as Sugar House, Salamander, and Beloit Poetry Journal, and in a chapbook, Moved (Kattywompus, 2016). He has taught since 1990 in public schools.

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Holdings

Ferrari from the heyday
of Bond, James Bond gleams
like new but the vacant
hurry that hardens
the driver’s gray expression
chases a thrill that’s gone,
man. I take this as a sign,
like the one he ran:
invest ever more
in upwellings. Not of oil;
of passionate fondness
between my love and me. And:
practice dropping everything –
tides like those come as they may.


Judith Waller Carroll, “Letter to My Husband, Away for the Weekend”

Judith Waller Carroll’s latest poetry collection, Ordinary Splendor, was published in April 2022 by MoonPath Press. She is also the author of What You Saw and Still Remember, a runner-up for the 2017 Main Street Rag Poetry Award; The Consolation of Roses, winner of the 2015 Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press Poetry Prize; and Walking in Early September (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have been read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, published in numerous journals and anthologies, and nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

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Letter to My Husband, Away for the Weekend

Fifty-two years and very few separations.
Perhaps that’s why it feels like you’re still here,
working upstairs at your computer

or reading in the chair by the window
while I putter in the kitchen,
procrastinate paying the bills.

Last night it felt strange to lie in our bed alone,
but I slept well and only missed you
in that hazy hour before dawn,

our customary snuggle
as we wait for the house to warm up,
your sleepy voice telling me your dream.

Is this what grief feels like?

The absent way I stop by your chair as if you were in it.
The same small stab of surprise
each time I find it empty.