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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Sources

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

cohabitations
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,
quietly,
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.


Ann E. Wallace, “Sounds Will Carry”

Ann E. Wallace, a poet and essayist from Jersey City, New Jersey, is author of the poetry collection Counting by Sevens (Main Street Rag). She has previously published work in Clementine Unbound, as well as in Crack the Spine, Riggwelter, Snapdragon, and other journals. She is online at AnnWallacePhD.com and on Twitter @annwlace409.

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Sounds Will Carry

We have pulled at thin air and breathed
in the shallows, hungry, our hearts
and lungs ablaze, commanded ourselves
to breathe, and breathe some more.

Our breath sounds swallowed
by the wail of sirens, on and on, the fear
stuck in our throats has now crescendoed
into the guttural cries of a nation in grief.

But we have laughed
as we have cried.
And we will laugh
and we will cry some more.

And the sounds will carry us,
like calling cards of the lost and bereft,
across the bridges and through the cities
in search of each other.


Laura Sminchak, “Slow No Wake”

Laura Sminchak’s poems have appeared in publications such as From Whispers to Roars and Cathexis Northwest Press, among others. She lives in Ohio and is a licensed attorney. She spends her time adventuring with her young children and jumping into rabbit holes. You can find her on Instagram at @laura_writes_words.

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Slow No Wake

the voice broke over the phone
I imagined her wail a cackle
for a split second I thought
you were with us
what a riot
what a hideous thing to do
you were never too stuffy for a prank
laughter thrown over your shoulder
rather than salt
you were never cruel

the voice says dead found dead
the idea deafening,
a frenzied bee loose in my brain
see how the blood rushes up to my ears
to stop me hearing it
then I only feel the word
my chest reverberates to it
like a struck gong
dead dead dead
my God
I hate the word
I hate it for you
the farthest from death of all of us
your life a footrace between you
and the cynic’s relentless temperance
arbitrary limits bent on
smothering your flames

you could not outrun a pandemic or despair
or perhaps a tiny vascular weakness
waiting tucked inside all along
I won’t say it was lurking
I won’t vilify some cluster of ne’er do well cells
misguided distracted strands of DNA

what I mean is only that I’ll try
my very best
not to bore you
not to blame you
not to vilify your cells
not to vilify my own
broken
self


John Muro, “Befitting Blue”

A life-long resident of Connecticut, John Muro is a graduate of Trinity College, Wesleyan University and the University of Connecticut. His professional career has been dedicated to environmental stewardship and conservation. In the Lilac Hour, John’s first volume of poems, was published last fall by Antrim House, and it is available on Amazon. His poems have been published or are forthcoming in numerous literary journals, including Moria, Euphony, The French Literary Review, and River Heron.

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Befitting Blue

Such as the pale
Solvent leaking
From the periphery
Of sky or the brightly
Jeweled jay
Flushed to wires
Drooping like jowls
Between utility poles
Or the glass insulators
Set atop the crossbars
Like translucent
Chalices of ice.
Perhaps the sneeze
Of cornflowers stirring
In weedy plush or the
Sham enamel spilling
From the bucket of
Morning mussels
Warming a pair of
Damselflies—winged
Bobby pins—locked
In contorted wheel
The color and shape
Of the ring you
Returned in your final
Act of mercy last night.


Robert Nisbet, “Sleepover”

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has appeared in the USA in San Pedro River Review, Main Street Rag, Third Wednesday, Burningword Literary Journal, and many others. He has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize

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Sleepover

The game in Cardiff was the Grand Slam one
and on the train back Rhys keeled over.
The boys said, Put him under the seat for now,
save embarrassment, and then forgot about him,
so he woke in a siding way downline, midnight.

The guards found him, thought, Another drunk,
and carted him off to the waiting room, laid him
on a wooden bench, in recovery mode.

The first to nag at Rhys’s mind were the mice
(they breed in waiting rooms, under the floorboards)
and they called, Yip, yip, nip, nip, at his head.

But Rhys got through all that, until the blackbird
started to sing. It was daybreak and a truly beautiful
April day. Oh Day, Song, Life, such radiance,
sang the bird. I have sired and bred and built my nest,
he sang. I celebrate the universe in its entirety.
How glorious. Wake up, you lazy bastard.

Down in the greyer depths of Rhyssie’s mind
the tussle stormed, joy versus stinking head.
Then a saintly guard called Francis brought him coffee,
checked his cash, put him on a train back home.


Jared Carter, “Leather”

Jared Carter’s most recent book of poems, The Land Itself, is from Monongahela Books in Morgantown, West Virginia. He lives in Indiana.

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Leather

In essence, then, does she become
       your phantom limb
By drawing on these gloves? Benumbed,
       her touch within

Feels nothing of your body flensed.
       She disallows
Your counterclaim of innocence;
       surely by now

You can’t object, since, donned anew,
       you are but bling,
Entirely converted to
       a nameless thing.

 


 

 

 

Phil Wood, “Making Sense: A Seduction”

Phil Wood studied English Literature at Aberystwyth University. He has worked in statistics, shipping, and a biscuit factory. His writing can be found in various publications, including Autumn Sky Daily, Miller’s Pond, Snakeskin Poetry, and Poetry Pacific.

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Making Sense: A Seduction

It’s possible to know the truth
because the truth smells right. It’s sweet.

Listen with sleep. My voice will root
and find its soil. So take a bite.

What you see is what you will taste.
It’s touch that wets the light. Believe.

All further proof of me is false
like senseless thought delays this night.