Denise Segal-Umans, “A Trek”

Denise Segal-Umans grew up in South Africa and now lives in the Boston area. As a speech-language therapist and linguist, she worked for over thirty years in language and literacy development and as a teacher of English as a second language. Her poems have been published in Clementine Poetry Journal, Clementine Unbound, Poetry Quarterly, Indiana Voice Journal, and The Avocet: a Journal of Nature Poetry.

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A Trek

Regret is like following a path through the bush,
retracing your steps from the other end, in search
of an animal—tracking its footsteps as they recede
into dust, only a whiff of scent still clinging
to the veld grass. Regret

wraps itself around you like a worn fleece,
the one you wear for this trek, the one you’re loath
to give away—not now, not yet: it’s still too snug
in a worn, familiar way, despite tattered cuffs
and a too-tight fit,

shoulders drooping, pulling you back
with each movement to remorse, specks of dirt
ground into its fabric, each scuff on the sleeve
a word said in jest, misunderstood,
a gesture not intended, a chance

missed and rued. Your thoughts bulge
with words spoken hastily, then lamented, actions
taken or not taken, instants lost and mourned,
moments frayed at the edges. Regret
is like retrieving a map

from the back pocket of your memory,
to find landmarks warped and faded,
blurred by the stretch and scratch
of time. So you return home, wary
of footsteps behind you, at dusk,
that hour of unease.

 


 

 

 

Candace Pearson, “13 Days”

Candace Pearson won the Liam Rector First Book of Poetry Prize from
Longwood University for Hour of Unfolding. Her poems have been published in leading journals and anthologies and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. A freelance writer/editor by day, she organizes poetry events and writes by lantern light in the San Bernardino Mountains of California.

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13 Days

1 / The sky opens and two pencil-traced figures fall
into a day of paper, shaky ink. After twenty-five years,
we make vows of state-sanctioned origami.

2 / Molecules shift after an unexpected wind. I sign away
some inexpressible solitude. You: I’m not afraid
of dying, but now I want more time.

3 / A day of case numbers & invaders. Hospice nurses &
opioid peddlers, deliveries of oxygen, a mechanical bed
that hoists you high onto the altar.

4 / I mimic your careful cuneiform, diary of doses & hours,
ruler-straight rows of acquiescence from a man
who once took nothing stronger than vitamin C.

5 / This morning I brave the syringe, draw just enough
morphine, not more, let it weep into your mouth,
calibrating the immeasurable.

6 / Your son arrives. We show our ringed hands; you,
unable to rise or stop leave-taking, say, It has been
a wonderful five days for both of us.

7 / A memory of feathers: blue heron on guard, injured
crow falling into your embrace, so many wings.
If only they could grant you glide & pitch.

8 / Yes, ma’am! Yes, sir! you shout, already in between
realms, as sentry trees tap on your windows in code
and earth persists in tenacious rotation.

9 / Morning of stones, collected around ponds
at the world’s edge. Quartz, its gray veins bleeding,
fool’s gold preening in the tumble & rush.

10 / For all the ill-formed words, noxious, lamented
words, for each stinging nettle & bite, in this moment,
on this day, we forgive.

11 / Farewells whirl into view. An old actor friend visits
to conjure your younger self. An ex-wife worries a
shared rosary, you smile. Levitation fleeting.

12 / One last day given over to water. Streams we camped by,
pre-dawn fishing, your fingertips anticipating a pool’s
cool edge. I whisper, It’s okay to dive.

13 / This day of song. Three versions of your favorite,
an Irish ballad, ending with Elvis. On a high note,
on ink & ash & light.

 


 

 

 

Gale Acuff, “10”

Gale Acuff has had hundreds of poems published in several countries and is the author of three books of poetry. He has taught university English in the US, China, and Palestine.

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10

One day when I’m dead I won’t be dead but
alive, more alive than alive, even,
that’s what they say at Sunday School so I
needn’t be afraid of dying even
though I am, it might hurt and I might be

in the middle of something important,
halfway through a pizza or a box of
hollow chocolates or a pan of popcorn
or a comic mag or a book about
dinosaurs or outer space or dinos
in outer space or when I’m older Play
-boy magazine or maybe my first kiss
but our lips don’t quite meet and then the world

ends or at least mine does but she lives on
to taste somebody else and I’ll be cut
out, standing in line for the throne of God
and awaiting His judgment when I could
hear her saying that she wants me to call
again and I say sure but I never do.

 


 

 

 

Amy Liu, “Behind the Trees”

Amy Liu is a woman of color and a sixteen-year-old poet based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her poetry is featured in National Braille Press, Neshaminy Journal, Her Culture, etc.

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Behind the Trees

Where does placid passion reside? Behind the trees?
For in the rolling red clay you hide behind the trees.

Necks craned bodies carved—we seal the broken sky,
as gilded-feathered birds of whiskey glide behind the trees.

“Our Nǚwā molded us from honey” / “Can you hear us?
Ma!” / Prophets peons serfs abide behind the trees.

Missed the boat / Knot untangled / Do I live undone?
Dried dock defied / Cunning ravens collide behind the trees.

Sipping from suspended orange blossoms, I hear
demise of azure / Adam chides behind the trees.

Crystal lionesses prod & pirouette on pearl,
pinning vivid opera chimes on hair of Naugahyde behind the trees.

Are these bones of soot mine, Nǚwā?
You forged me from ropes of snide, behind the trees?

How your teardrops look like trinkets in the rain!
To your ode even desert clairvoyants replied behind the trees.

Home is mine under scorching, crashing tides of pretense—
nimble owls pray to Rigel from inside behind the trees.

Is that petaled face of amethyst yours, mother?
Alas, love, such you cannot decide behind the trees.

 


 

 

 

Amy Lerman, “The Dental Office”

Amy Lerman is a residential faculty member in the English department at Mesa Community College, and when she is not teaching (or writing or submitting), she enjoys running, traveling, and hanging with her husband, cats, and family. Her poems have appeared and/or are forthcoming in Slippery Elm, Ember Chasm, Rattle, and Smartish Pace, among other publications.

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The Dental Office

Today’s feature in The Stafford Courier is about the culvert
repair on Highway 281, just outside of Seward. I know this

because the two men in the waiting room, one wearing a seed
hat and overalls, the other in a western shirt and jeans, read

sections aloud. Every so often I smile over at them. We are
sharing this time together, after all, and I imagine their lives,

routines, thinking they might enjoy being indoors this June
Wednesday instead of out in the field. I want to comment

on today’s wind or ask if they had much rain with last night’s
storm—this is Kansas, where weather promises constant

conversation—yet I hesitate, presume that this, despite
the backgrounding Christian rock and muffled drill noises

from the back, might be the quiet and calm of their day, no hot
wind whipping the shelterbelt junipers, no alfalfa baler yawps,

no voices yelling about irrigation levels across the shaggy hay
rows. Even when the tornado sirens sound at noon, no one

speaks or moves, this being the first of the month at noon
and test day, so I return to my novel, listen for when their friend

thanks the assistant for her fresh toothbrush and mini paste, only
too pleased when, on their way out, the overalled man, taps

my left shoulder, says, “It’s all up to you now,” and we laugh, my eyes
following through the office window, as they exit in haloed sunlight.

 


 

 

 

Lynne Thompson, “Blood on the Wall”

Lynne Thompson is the author of Start With a Small Guitar and Beg No Pardon, winner of the Perugia Book Award and the Great Lakes Colleges New Writers Award. Jane Hirshfield selected her manuscript Fretwork for the 2018 Marsh Hawk Poetry Prize. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Pleiades, American Poetry Journal, and 2020’s Best American Poetry.

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Blood on the Wall

You’re always walking to school, Ruby Bridges,
wearing a dress and short socks so white
agains the black blackness of your face and legs,
against the cardinality of the blood on the wall,

and on that wall, you see the scrawl, Ruby Bridges,
of that word—nigger—and doesn’t 21st century
America see a wall painted with scars just as ugly,
see a wall some faux leader has promised to build?

Where do you walk now, decades on, Ruby Bridges,
when thousands of lives have been lost—to what?
Is that your pitch-dark beauty walking toward us
or are you the old woman, resigned, walking away?

 

This poem was inspired by Norman Rockwell’s painting, The Problem We All Live With.


 

 

 

Lester Petillo, “Eight”

Lester Petillo is a poet living in New York City.

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Eight

a twin in a town of dumpster
sculptures. i walked feverishly toward
him and made acquaintance. he was deeply
restless like trees in the night wind.
we rode the subway and related our troubles.

is this redundant? he asked in his home, slapping
the flat of the kitchen knife on his thigh.
no, i told him. and right then we felt it:
what we’d been meaning for, been wanting,
the need to get out, to go, for having
dazed away so many days through fear
and waiting.

and we did go, walking and around, outside.
left the knife, but we shoulda
brought it he chided a few times;
all the real people we found in the streets
got us scared and sorry and
wrestled us out of it.

brought ourselves back to the house,
took that knife in both our palms
and cut up all his ma’s walls. the paper,
rolled and hanging down, went colorless.
when his ma got home her face lost color too.
all i could see was him and me and we
made it seem, to her, that we ran
off, away. but didn’t and spent a night in
his attic, talking restless over great fears of
missing our own reasoning for doing such things.

soon, i began to feel the dream of it:
the shifting time and his shifting faces.
in life, i have no friends like this.

 


 

 

 

Anannya Uberoi is a full-time software engineer and part-time tea connoisseur based in Madrid. A travel junkie, she has extensively toured the Himalayas of Northern India, Bhutan and Nepal, and continues to log her experiences from unconventional journeys on paper. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Deep Wild Journal, Tipton Poetry Journal, Marías at Sampaguitas, and LandLocked. Her blog on Medium explores philosophical undertones to everyday thinking.

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my beautiful

my mouth runs like a mulberry tree against a
derelict window, vowel-keen, swanning,
hushing into a low branch by the brindled
ledge. I shed my greased hair in canals of
salt chuck and landfills of boomburbs;
count my eyelashes in flower-lined
baskets and pedal them bare-faced
around town. my eyes are slits of cedar
waxwings that flutter and snigger at
slapstick humor. my beautiful
coughs up bushels of junk by purple-tide,
coral feet uncurl from their soft-swiveling
pinwheels by the moon. I scuffle violet-keys
under the locks of my hair, my curves like
hums on rolling tongues, my sugar, like
waterways upon a spawning rock,
my beautiful, windswept and wrecked.

 


 

 

 

M. J. Iuppa, “Days of Empty Hours”

M. J. Iuppa’s fourth poetry collection is This Thirst (Kelsay Books, 2017). For the past thirty-one years, she has lived on a small farm near the shores of Lake Ontario. Check out her blog, mjiuppa.blogspot.com, for her musings on writing, sustainability, and life’s stew.

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Days of Empty Hours

Without a tongue,
       the small prayer bell
               summons no one

It rains every day—
       dismal & persistent—
               puddles become harbors

Drifting, briefly—
       Birdsong echoes
               in ochre light

A dream I tell no one
       I tell no one I dream
               about this

 


 

 

 

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.