Kevin Shyne, “How Hard We Try”

Once a freelance writer, later a corporate speechwriter, and at last a poet, Kevin Shyne has been published in Poetry Breakfast, The Lyric, The Road Not Taken, and Blue Heron Review. Kevin lives in a small town in the corn-and-soybean heart of Illinois, where, along with other arts-minded volunteers, he organized the 2018 Festival of the Written Word, a creative writing event for students from the seven high schools in Bureau Country.

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How Hard We Try

Say it was her command.
My daughter, age eleven,
stared me down
until I said the words,
I love myself.
But obedience was not enough.
She drilled me with her eye.
Now with feeling, she persisted
as if to say
If you can’t why should I?

Softening her stare,
she granted me a night’s reprieve
attentive as I tucked her in
kissed her cheek,
and left the door an inch ajar.
In the hall I tried again.
I love myself
spoken in a voice I barely recognized.
Much easier to say and mean
I love you to a child like this
but turn the words back on ourselves
we choke on undeservingness.

Tomorrow night I’ll try again
as much for her sake as for mine.
One day, when I am but a face
watching from a picture frame
hanging on a daughter’s wall
she’ll catch me eyeing
her surrender and wonder
what happened to her spine.
Then she will remember,
besieged by her own children’s eyes
how easily the words once came
to her and how hard a parent tries.

 


 

 

 

John Daugherty, “How to carve a poetic sculpture”

John Daugherty is an emerging writer and poet from Houston, Texas. He is taking online creative writing courses from the UCLA Extension (certificate program) and University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education. His work was adapted for the Ripples in Space podcast and has been published in the journal Havik.

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How to carve a poetic sculpture

They tell me that to sculpt my poem
I must start with a marble block of form
But that would be a good way
To sculpt a block of a block of a block
Which is not a sculpture at all

To carve a sculpture you first sculpt clay
To sculpt clay you first sculpt grey matter
To sculpt grey matter you first sculpt memories
To sculpt memories you first get off your ass

Hammer in hand whack away the excesses
The negative image of the poem
To match the clay model in the mind
Rocks and dust later swept away
Claw chisel tapping in the details
Chisel comma chisel comma chisel period

But have you applied the seven grades
Of sandpaper to your poem sculpture
Grinding grainy grit
Until the sculpture appears
Polished and smooth and perfect
(Or at least the flaws neatly hidden)

Poetic sculpture complete
They slap the plaque on and
Give it a catalog number and
Put it in the museum book.

 


 

 

 

Diane Goodman, “At Your Party, Watching You Dance”

Diane Goodman has published poems in Indiana Review, African American Review and Prairie Schooner, and is the author of three short story collections: Party Girls (Autumn House Press), The Plated Heart, and The Genius of Hunger (both from Carnegie Mellon University Press Series in Short Fiction).

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At Your Party, Watching You Dance

That woman
who stuffed her thighs into shiny black jeans
swelled around your hips like a night sea.
And when you turned your back on me,
flaming nails broke from her fists
against the dark heavens of your hair.
She rose and swayed and sank
all around you, the music was playing,
the black water was taking you
toward the horizon of morning,
shards of red sky rising in your hair
like a sailor’s warning.

 


 

 

 

Margaux Novak, “Peeling Oranges”

Margaux Novak has been published internationally in Little Patuxent Review, The Worcester Review, Sanctuary: Audubon Society Magazine, and Wraparound South. She is a recipient of the Guy Owen Award and winner of Dartmouth College’s Frost Place Poetry Award. Novak was nominated for the 2017 Pushcart Prize for her poem, “Sea Witch,” which appeared in Little Patuxent Review. Novak received a master’s in creative writing from Dartmouth College. She was raised in coastal North Carolina and now resides in Boston, Massachusetts. Find her online at www.margauxenovak.com.

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Peeling Oranges

It’s that first puncture I crave,
when I dig my thumbnail
wound-deep into the freckled rind

and the skin peels back a little,
spits up at me.
I separate peel from body,

pull back a thick layer of web
where pith abandons fruit.
Help unfurl its cayenne skirt.

I recoil the rind to my nose, breathe—
when you breathe an orange you have to
commit; can’t turn from that fresh hope—

Citrus sluices across my tongue
sweet, tang, the way summer
feels: full, dusk-lit, gone.

 


 

 

 

David Anthony Sam, “Now Is Not the Time to Talk about Guns”

David Anthony Sam, the proud grandson of peasant immigrants from Poland and Syria, lives in Virginia with his wife and life partner, Linda. Sam’s poetry has appeared in over ninety publications, and his poem “First and Last” won the 2018 Rebecca Lard Award. Sam’s five collections include Final Inventory (Prolific Press, 2018) and Finite to Fail: Poems after Dickinson, the 2016 grand prize winner, GFT Press Chapbook Contest. He teaches creative writing at Germanna Community College and serves on the board of the Virginia Poetry Society.

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Now Is Not the Time to Talk about Guns

The dead are too warm and bloody.
The living have not had time to mourn.
The news cycle has not had time to move on to the next big thing.
The politicians have not had time to bank the latest contribution.
The ammo manufacturers have not had time to refill the stores’ coffers.
The earth has not had time to swallow all the dead.
And there has not been enough time for the next gunman to vindicate
the silence of legislators with another shooting for which
now will not be

    the time

          to talk

               about guns.

 


 

 

 

Jared Carter, “Resurrection”

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.

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Resurrection

The body rises up at last,
     it cannot keep
Its distance from what comes to pass,
     when more than sleep

Is beckoning. To bid adieu
     and still to bless,
Savonarola reached out through
     the flames; and pressed

Against them, Frida Kahlo sat
     upright, as though
Awakening at last from what
     is merely show.


 

 

 

Hiram Larew, “Over and Besides”

Hiram Larew’s fourth collection, Undone, was published in 2018 by FootHills Publishing. Find him on Facebook at Hiram Larew, Poet, and at POETRYXHUNGER.COM.

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Over and Besides

Praise for lives of curve
For arrivals’ grins
For pures that blend
and windows’ ledgings

Praise in ways that lift
Through pockets’ wings
Through beams of firsts
and eyes of deepest stories
Through ringing branches
and pink dirts of Spring
or brimming

Praise with hearts of over and besides
with more of slowly turnings
with running hills and lifted ears
Praise with inside’s shimmer tinge
that almost flies with ever-flowing