David P. Miller, “Gratuitous Gratitude”

David P. Miller’s collection, Sprawled Asleep, will be published by Nixes Mate Books in 2020. His chapbook, The Afterimages, was published by Červená Barva Press. His poems have recently appeared in Meat for Tea, Hawaii Pacific Review, Turtle Island Quarterly, and What Rough Beast, among others. He is a member of the Jamaica Pond Poets. His poem “Add One Father to Earth” was awarded an Honorable Mention by Robert Pinsky for the New England Poetry Club’s 2019 Samuel Washington Allen Prize competition. He was a librarian at Curry College in Massachusetts, from which he retired in June 2018.

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Gratuitous Gratitude

From me with gratitude for this person’s two functioning arms
       fingers enough to grasp both dog’s leash
       and sidekicked shopping bag

Many thanks to you, cyclist who swerved with grace
       past the crosswalker who placidly entered the exact space
       where you would have been at that moment but weren’t
       because you were the one paying attention

Appreciation to the woman passing
       who is not my old friend but looks like my old friend
       so that I remember her

Appreciation for six chess tables preserved across a primped brick plaza
       for one shred of flavor, one smack of survival

Appreciation for the man with a crow feather
       rising from his shirt pocket
       feather, shirt, man wordless at a café table

Gratitude for milk crates of mysterious origin
       unfixed sidewalk seating, milk crates
       from basements, garages, backyards, alleys,
       crates that never knew milk
Many thanks to someone who sometime
       handled molten plastic congealing as milk crates
Quiet and awed respect for those who perfected
       the standard milk crate
Gratitude that when I write or speak “milk crate”
       and you hear or read it
       you probably know what I mean

Newly discovered relieved gratitude that bus route numbers persist from one day to the next
Widespread unspoken happiness that they use Arabic numerals

Gratitude this very instant for the cool soaked towel
       carried in a plastic bag by this man here in army fatigue pants
Appreciation for the gravel receiving the water
       he pours from the bag
Thanks for the wet terrycloth across his arm

Surprised pleasure for seven people in one moment
       unlocking seven blue rental bikes at the same time

Thanks for the second public rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema” this one afternoon
Gratitude for its radio saturation during my childhood and even more gratitude
       that I never suffered because of a girl from Ipanema

Gratitude to sparrows
       paragons of one-pointed attention

Never-ending thanks for public restrooms
       they make life in public even thinkable
Deep bows to those who clean public restrooms
       their esoteric coronas would blind us if we could see





Annie Stenzel, “Onomatomania”

Annie Stenzel was born in Illinois, but has lived on both coasts of the US and in Paris, Berlin, and the antipodes at various times in her life. Her book-length collection is The First Home Air After Absence (Big Table Publishing, 2017). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in print and online journals in the US and the UK, most recently including Chestnut Review, Gargoyle, Pine Hills Review, and Poets Reading the News. She lives within sight of the San Francisco Bay. For more, visit anniestenzel.com.

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Creep over to a word suspended in air . . .
like an insect in amber? Not quite.

What is a word, other than symbols
or at least gestures, or at least sounds

depending on the language—how old
it is; whether it lives or was lost in dust

when its final speaker turned toward the wall
and died with a wordless sigh.

There are rooms empty of people but still
filled with books filled with words.

Old windows allow the inside of a room to share
with the outside: wind-whisper, birdsong, bulldozer.

Who will be there to hear the last mot juste,
whatever it may be?





Samantha Madway, “Instruction Manual for Not-Nice Girls”

Samantha Madway is working on a collection of interlinked poems and flash fiction. She loves her dogs, Freddie, Charlie, Parker, Greta, and Davey, more than anything else in the universe. Her writing has appeared in SLAB, Sky Island Journal, unstamatic, After the Pause, and elsewhere. She’s technophobic but attempts to be brave by having an Instagram @sometimesnight. If the profile were a plant, it would’ve died long ago.

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Instruction Manual for Not-Nice Girls

wear an
outfit they’ll
call an invitation.
Don’t drink at dinner.
Don’t walk alone after dark,
not even if summer is ending or it’s
been forever since the sun actually set
instead of sneaking behind sweat and smog.
Don’t smile because silent lightning isn’t
streaking the sky, the swelter broken
by mercy, not the thunderstorm
they promised was coming
tomorrow every day
since the middle
of June.

be friendly,
but don’t be aloof.
Don’t engage, avoid, accept,
initiate, decline, ignore, or attract.
Don’t have any gaps in your memory.
Don’t think about first grade art projects,
forcing secrets out of leaves and pennies and
the sheet of paper under a piece used to pass notes.
Don’t think about indentations on your skin,
etchings of the textures you were up
against, impressions shaped like
a stranger in places that
crayons can’t reach.
Don’t act crazy.
Don’t cry.

get confused
or struggle to speak.
Don’t be a crime scene.
Don’t need your wrists and
neck and knees dusted for prints.
Don’t need police reports, cotton swabs.
Don’t lose yourself in ceiling tiles while they
examine you on a table that’s as cold as a morgue.
Don’t be photos of body parts with rulers for frames.
Don’t count your bruises, scratches, bloodstains.
Don’t ask for water or say I can’t remember.
Don’t get angry when they act like you’re
the one who’s accused of something.
Don’t ask why when they say
don’t get your hopes up.
Don’t tell them you
have no use
for hope.





Deirdre Fagan, “At the Opera House”

Deirdre Fagan is a widow, wife, mother of two, and associate professor and coordinator of creative writing in the English, Literature, and World Languages Department at Ferris State University. Fagan is the author of a chapbook of poetry, Have Love, forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (2019) and a collection of short stories, The Grief Eater, forthcoming from Adelaide Books (2020. Fagan’s poem “Outside In,” was a 2019 finalist for Best of the Net. Fagan’s poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and academic essays on poetry, memoir, and pedagogy are available in various creative and academic print and online journals and collections.

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At the Opera House

Do we age into the beauty of sound as we do
the salted heaven of oysters and anchovies,
cabernet and golden whiskeys swirling, legs viscous?

Do our mature taste buds indicate depreciation,
or simply a fully savored, beautiful acquiescence?

In the restroom during orchestra’s pause,
all the marble doors have been shut delicately, care offered
to every liquid moment, even the ordinary now deserving of love’s gestures.

Arias recalled in sweet memory, the slow trickle of urine stall by stall
indicates the increasing age of those surrounding me—
my own, a staccato resonance.

While I’m dying, lower my bottom jaw, and tilt my head if I no longer can.
Prop my neck with a pillow, if you must, and squeeze the lemon,
add the hot sauce, and let the oyster and me slide into darkness
savoring the globulous salty sweetness of our combined lives.

A little whiskey rubbed on the lips will also do.