Adam King, “Tribal Letter”

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Tribal Letter

This is not my confession,
it is my burning refuge.
These sticks, these words
I have come to light up
speak of the villages, encampments, and towns.
In a drought, people go hungry
or they learn to eat fire.

I remember a children’s game
in which no one would hold my hand.
And a Mexican hat dance my class performed
but I alone had no partner.
I was given the crusts, crumbs,
the days-old bread of being alone.

Myself, so long I have beaten you,
a drum making no sound,
that I carried on death-marches
across barren wastes.
The dwellings I lived in
marked with X’s, like in the Bible story.
And each was destroyed, rubbled.

I don’t live anywhere now.
The walls are made of flame here
and the doors, of weak prayer.
I have only this task,
this piling of stone heaps.

I wish my home was the ocean.
Out of sticks, I’d make a boat,
be its captain.
I could know no one,
to others, be a ghost in the mist.
I could empty my ears
of all sounds but oars.

I watch our poor tribe
from my leaky boat,
and see all their days spoiled with wanting,
with lust for perfection.

I see them living in the never-neverland
of what they think is beauty.
I recall Moses
and the hundreds walking from Egypt.
Hungry, unbelieving.

Adam King lives south of Albuquerque, NM, along the Rio Grande. He holds an MA in counseling. His poems have been published in Blue Mesa Review, St. Elizabeth Street, Seattle Review, and The Tongue. He is currently working toward becoming licensed as a LADAC while editing twenty years’ worth of his “uncollected” poems. Hilda Doolittle’s little poem “Moonrise” began his love affair with poetry in high school, and he is forever grateful to her.

Kelly R. Samuels, “An Attempt to Respond to Thomas Pesquet’s Two Photographs”

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An Attempt to Respond to Thomas Pesquet’s Two Photographs

Light was your first word. Not anything like this,
your feet on the ground. But still, that word.

Seeing the images of the continent
we have not been to, across the ocean

we have not set eyes on from above:
Light in the singular. Light in the plural. You.

We can’t quite conjure the apt simile.
Beauty does this: rejects comparison.

For us, a loss of words defines simple grandeur –
not the gaudy manmade – cornice and carousel –

but something like this seen from a fair distance.
All the words people choose to use fall short. Even ours.

We could ask for forgiveness or we could just accept
our shortcomings and try for a simulacrum:

glow-in-the-dark ceiling
or an orb that turns and turns. For stars

are what we also think of, those you searched for
lying in your crib, in your bed, in the field. Here

where actual stars reside, gazing down on what appear
to be stars. The grand Milky Way, the Perseid shower.

So, you and the celestial body are where we end up.
The association and the simile, nevertheless.

For we try, we try to articulate awe.
Though we know they are not stars. Rather:

every road lit for the safe tread. And
we have not seen you for years now.

Always others, but not you.
Over the rim, the aurora borealis glows.


Kelly R. Samuels lives in the upper Midwest. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Net, and has appeared or is forthcoming in various journals including The Carolina Quarterly, Rappahannock Review, Sweet Tree Review, Salt Hill, and RHINO. She has a chapbook forthcoming in January from Unsolicited Press.


Al Ortolani, “Shopping for Fruit”

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Shopping for Fruit

What is melancholia? I ask
the class of 17-year-olds. One boy
just outside the T-zone answers,
A fruit. And I had to laugh.
Yes, probably in the produce section
at HyVee, you’ve got the honeydew,
the cantaloupe, the melancholia,
most likely priced higher than
the watermelon, so germane to
family picnics, ice cream socials,
class reunions. The melancholia
ripens slowly on vines of discontent.
It is only purchased by the disillusioned
when the fruit bin has been emptied
of choices. But I keep this cherry
to myself. These boys haven’t
done much produce shopping.
They still find bananas amusing.


Al Ortolani’s poetry has appeared in journals such as Rattle, Prairie Schooner, and Tar River Poetry. His newest collection, On the Chicopee Spur, has just been released from New York Quarterly Books. Ortolani is the manuscript editor for Woodley Press in Topeka, Kansas, and directs a memoir writing project for Vietnam veterans across Kansas in association with the Library of Congress and Humanities Kansas. He currently lives in the Kansas City area.


Jared Carter, “Westerly”

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Ask me no more. For no one knows
       what happened then,
That door is closed to us. Who goes
       that way again

Must take the simple path, outside
       into the dark,
Into the evening’s calm, to bide
       the time, and mark

The way the wind moves through the trees –
       the slow sifting,
The stirring there among the leaves,
       the leaves drifting.


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.


Don Brandis, “The Mirror of the Late War”

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The Mirror of the Late War

We were so, so, so . . .
ordinary, our every enterprise
would soon miscarry
not that failure was intended
but our intent was only clear
when it was flagrantly upended,
even to us. No, especially
we’d sort the wreckage
and believe it necessary.
When the moon was full
the fields were silver with its sheen
as if they were not ground but sea
inhabited by churning shoals of fish
drawn out like moths in moon-madness
mocking us for sane and sober sloths
who were by seeming accident both.


Don Brandis is a retired healthcare worker living a happily married hermit’s life in a small town not far enough from Seattle, reading and writing poems, tending fruit trees, and meditating. He writes because good poems are invitations to engage intrinsic values in a culture that only values tools. He has published some poems with Melancholy Hyperbole, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Hamilton Stone Review, and elsewhere.