Relax. To survey the splintered
landscape, the heart in your hands,
that injured bird, open-beaked and
hungry, is a step in the right direction.
Lie down. You need to disassemble.
For this, a wrench is useful. Pliers
for the wiry parts. String for sutures.
Soldering iron for wounds. Place
all bits on a surface of your choosing.
Perhaps an arid desert plain is best, sun-
baked and ready for the word arisen.
Close your eyes. They are not needed
for this type of toil. Spread the parts
in the grains of sand. Time to pass
over each shattered bit. Step lightly
and be careful to break into song.
The melody matters. It must ride
the paradox of sweet and strong.
Embrace the wrongness hard.
You will sense it fuse slowly together,
so do not be alarmed to discover when
you open, what was broken is gone.
Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman now lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. She is the author of two poetry collections: Like Stardust in the Peat Moss and Railroad Phoenix (Kelsay Books/Aldrich Press). Find out more at: aliciamariehoffman.com.
Her thin shoulders like sere hills roll
and shift beneath the flowered nightgown
as she presses the iron against dress sleeves,
searing creases in. Her fingers grip
the handle’s curve till blisters blaze and throb,
weep against the pressure of her thumb’s
narrowed web. Chokecherries strangle her
collar as the fiery chrysanthemums
bloom vivid round her waist, catching
weak sun through the yellowed muslin curtains
that waver and strain the breeze, pan
for bird song and bee drone, the mower’s whine
and cease. Against this day, she will—against
the ruck of tires passing—array herself.
Bryan Miller is a middle- and upper-school English teacher and freelance editor from Columbus, Ohio. Having earned his MA in English from the University of Kentucky in 2002 and his BA in creative writing and poetry from Murray State University in 1995, he has had poems and short stories published in 3Elements Literary Review, Blinders Journal, Extracts: Poetry and Short Story Anthology, and The Independent.
The Secret Lives of Birds
Snowy owls never read
the Annotated Guide to Birds,
but rooster feathers sometimes line
the nests of well-read hens.
Great white herons, unaware
of poems with ponds where they appear,
vanish like the dinosaurs they were
into the many minds of air.
Peopling the atmosphere
like winged seeds and unstrung kites,
cranes and egrets disappear
to emerge from mist as metaphor.
Birds like us go with the flow—
eagles high, wrens low.
With clipped wings and puffed up plumes,
parrot laureates bite their tongues.
To learn what feathered brains know,
consult the raven, ask the crow.
Lose your phone. Fly alone.
Watch the harpy upchuck bones.
A former art teacher, llama wrangler, and Greenpeace activist, Paul Fisher lives in Seattle with his wife, two bossy cats, and a five-pound poodle. He studied creative writing and visual art at the University of Washington, earned an MFA in poetry from New England College, and is in the throes of birthing his second book, An Exaltation of Tongues, forthcoming from MoonPath Press. Paul’s poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, Crab Creek Review, Cutthroat, Nimrod, and many other journals.
Olives and wine, then—placed before
In supplication to your door.
Let them, if numb
With cold, draw near your warming fire,
and may the goose
That you had thought to serve, retire
among the loose
Folds of the stranger’s gown. Then ask
that all be still.
The fire gleams; within its flask,
the wine refills.
Based on Ovid’s account of Baucis and Philemon.
Jared Carter’s Darkened Rooms of Summer was the first book selected for the Ted Kooser Contemporary Poetry Series and was published in 2014 by the University of Nebraska Press. Carter lives in Indiana.
When Dad Condemned His Brother
The woods of St. Cloud bristled in the frost.
The boughs that broke like rifle shots or backs
were in the background of their argument;
its tone and accusations froze the furze
on other continents in calmer days.
The new year meant their polestars lost their ways,
another door to twilit labyrinths
and terra incognita currents. Boys
who witness fathers lose composure lose
their sense of compass. And compounded by
the pompous cold of winter and a skin
of snow and ice to separate from kin
at will, whatever will compel migration will.
Jake Sheff is a major and pediatrician in the US Air Force, married with a daughter and three pets. Currently home is the Mojave Desert. Poems of Jake’s are in Marathon Literary Review, Jet Fuel Review, The Cossack Review, and elsewhere. His chapbook is Looting Versailles (Alabaster Leaves Publishing). He considers life an impossible sit-up, but plausible.