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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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.