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

Don’t
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.

Don’t
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.

Don’t
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.

 


 

 

 

Jared Carter, “Sin-Eater”

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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Sin-Eater

Then ale, a slice of bitter bread,
       and sixpence dropped
Into his hand. I will be dead
       at last, and stopped

From wandering upon the earth.
       No prayers now,
I will but naturally disperse,
       no thought for how

I am remembered, or the sins
       you bade him eat,
For fear, were I to walk again,
       we two might meet.

 


 

 

 

Ann E. Wallace, “April Storms”

Ann E. Wallace’s debut poetry collection, Counting by Sevens, was published by Main Street Rag in 2019. Recently published pieces in journals such as Wordgathering, Mom Egg Review, Snapdragon, and Riggwelter can be found on her website, AnnWallacePhD.com. She lives in Jersey City, NJ, and is on Twitter: @annwlace409.

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April Storms

These thirty days have been
without respite from storm and
cyclone, as darkness descended,
burrowed, and built a nest,

each day hatching
sadder than the one before,
quiet notes building crescendo
into a cacophony of despair

peaking three days to the end
as I neared collapse, long
after the worst had appeared
and was surpassed.

Battered into a weary mess,
I rose one last time, to feel a light
breeze spark the growth of new
skin upon my brittle frame.

 


 

 

 

Mary Callaway, “Fall Afternoon at the Arboretum” (photo manipulation)

Mary Callaway is retired from the U.S. Air Force with twenty-six years of service in the information technology field. During her career, she led organizations responsible for information technology, cybersecurity, and communications services over wide regions. She graduated from Ohio Dominican College in 1979 with degrees in math and business. She also has master’s degrees from the Air Force Institute of Technology, the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, and the University of Dayton. Her right brain kicked in after retiring, and she now dabbles in photography and writing. In her spare time, she enjoys golf and pickleball.

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Fall Afternoon at the Arboretum

Fall Afternoon at the Arboretum


Notes about this image:

I created the final image in Photoshop Elements. It consists of a textured image (scanned sheet of scrapbook paper) placed on top of a photograph. A tool in Elements allowed me to combine the two images using the Hard Light blend. (Mary Callaway)

 

 

C. Christine Fair, two poems

C. Christine Fair, Ph.D. is a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor in the Peace and Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She is a frequent commentator on television and radio including the CBS, BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN, Voice of America, Fox, Reuters, and NPR. She has given extensive interviews to journalists with the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, Businessweek, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and other print media outlets.

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Baby Paul

It took years to muster the courage
To assemble the detritus of his loss
So small his mangled body could scarcely
Fill a teacup
Yet so large, dark and consuming
It swallowed me

 

The Gathering

Years passed since that day I saw Paul
Unviable, without a heartbeat
In a swirl of blood and tissue
Not yet human. But loved.
We collected the few things we bought for him
Carefully placed them in a box with a note
Set them out for our neighborhood sale.

Best Offer:
7 Pack Sock Box – Farm Friends, NWT
Nordstrom Baby Cotton Bodysuits 3-Pk, NWT x 2
Carter’s Printed Cotton Flannel Swaddle 4-Pk, NWT
Kate Spade Diaper Bag, NWT.
Fit Moms. Spine Uncracked.

A neighbor, with a belly stretched tight as a drum,
Glanced at me awkwardly as she rummaged
Its intimate contents
And offered thirty dollars.
Having pocketed her cash, I winced.
I sold his brittle memory
For the price of a diner breakfast.

 


 

 

 

Linda Rhinehart, “Night Travels”

Linda Rhinehart is a poet, writer, and translator who has been writing for almost three years. She first began writing when she was accidentally invited to a poetry festival and became inspired. Over the course of her life, she has lived in the United Kingdom, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States. She holds an MA in translation and another MA in English literature. In her spare time she enjoys playing piano and going on short hikes.

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Night Travels

headlights splash
yellow magnets ahead
stretching into the hills in an endless diamond chain
each connected to the last yet
separate
but for intermittent blasts of rap and howls of rage
outside is only blackness, a dark
so dark you might mistake it for a galaxy without stars
and we will never know if there is a deer there on the
invisible asphalt, blood beading from its furry throat
before us loom
gleaming red lights, not jewels these, but
reminders of ever-present, inescapable civilization
as we edge, surely but slowly,
in an unknown direction