Kim Zach, “At the Bird Market in Kabul”

Kim Zach’s work has appeared most recently in Bone Bouquet, Adanna Literary Journal, Genesis, and U.S. 1 Worksheets. Her poem “Weeding My Garden” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. A lifelong resident of the Midwest, she is a retired high school English teacher who has found a second career as a book coach.

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At the Bird Market in Kabul

She weaves her way over the sun-cooked
       path, in the heated shadow of her husband.
               His anger scatters rocks and dogs.

Vendors huddle in the narrow doorways
       of their tented stalls. Wood-frame cages
               dangle and twirl above.

Buyers search among the captive birds—
       a diamond dove, a desert finch,
               a red-fronted serin.

She observes the birds from behind the mesh
       grille of her blue veil. Like caged jewels,
               their marbled gaze beckons.

Her husband strokes his beard, brandishes
       his fist. But he surrenders the coins,
               like the bride price he paid for her.

He turns, the coveted pet in hand. His fingers
       snap, ordering her to follow. The songbird,
               wings tucked, is silent.

She hesitates as he strides away. He swings
       the cage aloft, churring to the bird. Still,
               her sandals hug the dirt.

Overhead, swallows circle in warning,
       then wheel towards the distant mountains,
               cool with mist and snow.

She struggles to breathe, dizzy with their
       whispers of good-bye, their long flight
               over the Caspian Sea.

Her pulse thrums inside the burqa. She clutches
       the fluttering folds, imagines unravelling
               the embroidered blue threads.

Michael Jones, “Sources”

Michael Jones has taught in public schools since 1990. His poetry appears in journals such as Atlanta Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Cream City Review, and in a chapbook, Moved (Kattywompus, 2016).

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Baobabs’ ultra-thick trunks
are juicy. Elephants
chew through them like melons;

eat the fruit, too, pooping
seeds. Dreams of arid lands
a-greening say Paradise!

while dise‘s roots say garden
walls are fruits of labor:
daiz, from dhyegh, “to shape.”

Elephants are pachyderms;
baobabs are pachycauls.
Such improbable

shape happiness. Ancients
drew elephants with baobabs.

James Owens, “Aubade (1)”

James Owens’s newest book is Family Portrait with Scythe (Bottom Dog Press, 2020). His poems and translations appear widely in literary journals, including recent or upcoming publications in Grain, Dalhousie Review, Presence, Queen’s Quarterly, and Honest Ulsterman. He earned an MFA at the University of Alabama and lives in a small town in northern Ontario.

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Aubade (1)

I wake to the pitiless expanse of white bedsheet
and tell myself the bleak word gormless, dredged

from a dream where it was written in an English novel,
one of those lamed words that linger only in the privative.

Such a deflation after the delicate spill of your voice.
The gormless flush of songbird chatter without you in it.

Christy Prahl, “Reclaimed by the Ice”

Christy Prahl is a philanthropy professional, foraging enthusiast, and occasional insomniac. Her work has appeared in Peatsmoke Journal, The Blue Mountain Review, Ghost City Review, and others. She edited the literary collection A Construction of Cranes (Plastic Flame Press, 2020) and is at work on a chapbook, These Professions, which details her fascination with American labor. She splits her time between Chicago and rural Michigan among many unfinished projects.

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Reclaimed by the Ice

When it snows I think of Nathan,
walking with assurance
over gravel and frost,
consuming whole the polar expanse of Iceland,
its green leas to its white-dusted mountains,
cracked clean, surrounded by sea.

His footing holds as a squall picks up.
A map suddenly erased of its landmarks.
North and south in matching jackets.

He is out of provisions for this walk that was to occupy an afternoon.
Layered in down, but only for daylight and not the frozen box
this place becomes by nightfall.

I think of him casually shaking his compass for answers,
imagining the coffee at the ranger station
and the story told through numbed lips, breathless
with dumb luck.

I think of the sun falling on the horizon
as he surrenders to spending the night here,
laboring to build an ice cave with the last of the air in his lungs,
calculating whether to continue
or use his reserves to stamp an SOS in the snow.

Fighting at first,
then settling into the clarity
of what is forcefully,
happening to him.

I think of him retracing his footsteps to add a new message:
AT PEACE, which the snow will fill within the hour.

His professors planted a tree for him at Harvard.
It’s lost among the other trees,
as Nathan would have preferred it,
but tall enough to stand beneath
for shelter.