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In Hiding

Mercedes Lawry

In the hollow
of the half-dark
swallow of moon

with the stink
of leaf mold,
glisten of snail.

Crouched
like a spent iris
between weeping trees,

I look out
on wild filigree,
listening for

sounds beyond
river-rush
and nighthawks,

risking small breaths
a moth wing
from silence.

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 74

Why to Forget

Celisa Steele

To sleep, you have to forget,
each night letting go
the grapes, the milk, the gin,
mouthwash and bread until the whole
grocery list unstitches. Then the news of wars
and the color of your hair, your daughter’s
age and red rain boots. Metronome,
mendicant, cruet, then every word
you’ve known. Even your name.

Everything you forget
lines the path to sleep —
breadcrumbs of unknowing
marking nameless streets.

As you wake,
retrace your steps,
relearn any fact
or wish you find
left untouched
by night’s ravenous birds.

Issue 9, 2017. pg. 17

Insomnia Study

Randolph Thomas

Each afternoon we took apart
the stacks of cots at the back of the room.
The teacher and her aides

handed out pillows and quilts, and we
lay on the cots for forty-five minutes
in silence

in the dark.
I lay awake while all the others slept
like I lie awake sometimes now

wondering what made me uneasy
even then, the voices
of the elders

whispery and muted
nursing their secrets
and the other children around me

content, trusting
in their sound napping
until the lights clicked back on,

until they rose, yawning,
as the cots and pillows
were gathered and put away.

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 10

Ghazal: The night undresses and

Jenna Bazzell

the moon lacquers the cloud shelf, the blooming weight
of crape myrtles. Fog pools. The telephone cables wait

for hawks to perch, to resemble what has passed: lonely
like the dead in the earth, like roots of saw grass waiting

for something else. Until then, I’ll remember I belong
to a family where loss looms inside grief with the weight

of utter ruin, of hail-battered foxglove collapsing. I pray
to what I am not: a cloud of gnats, a womb. My body waits,

wants to slip between mistakes. The hours filled with plumes
of smoke, the volume of fingernails. The unremarkable weight

of a glass door sliding shut. A mouth opening. For the room
to cave in, to stop raining. For tonight’s tight ball of red weight

to burrow inside me. Let it consume me. Let it smell
like burning plastic fumes. Tell me: What am I waiting

for here I haven’t for before? To resume tilling up old
stones, training legume runners. How long must I wait

to be forgiven? Instead, another gloomy day, another
broken broom handle, an empty jar to be weighted

against the dark. Your mouth is not a dead moon. A fawn
attempts to stand assuming it is able to hold up its own weight.

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 44

Even Words Fail to Protect You

Barbara Lawhorn

The moments of greatest
tenderness, you don’t share

with anyone. Your newly come
daughter, in the moments after

your husband abandons you both
for the Survivor season finale.

Breathing the world for only hours,
at your milk-stone breast, wordless hunger

and need unmet, unable to nurse. A howl
in you both, still there as she thresholds

to teenager. Umbilical cord. You scissor it,
again and again. Your favorite professor,

passenger side of the minivan you swore
you’d never own. Wise and sorrowful.

It’s not about you, he said, not unkindly, meaning
it all. All of it. He read aloud to another version

of you. Saved you from social work. Gently
questioned the idea of your marriage, so young

and twenty years later, as divorce unspools,
he seems an oracle. His words a mantra.

Under your son’s coiled rage, his heart
is a honeycomb. He has to fight you before

you can pour him into your lap. Before his love
is something he can’t contain. He is a jelly jar, shattered.

You can’t hold his immense sweetness.
Mama, he croons, half-song-half-sob.

The first man you invite into your bed—into your
body—into your brain, you love profoundly, expansively

and without question. Maybe you shouldn’t. You have been walking
without skin. Even words fail to protect you or articulate

what is between you—Steinbeck’s folded map, creased with use,
such letters written, thousands of miles and three months

traversed. You whisper he does not have to be
so gentle. Yes. Yes, I do. His stillness shakes you.

You press your ear to skin, listen
to the cadence of his heart, steady—

tires rotating on road as you slip
into sleep, child in the back seat.

Good-bye. Good-bye. Good-bye.

Issue 9, 2017, pp 36-37

Wind Through Corn

J. C. Reilly

Sure that they have trudged
this track twice already, she veers
left at a break in the rows
while her siblings keep straight.
Their low voices carry a bit on the wind,
“you’ll be sorrys” clutching
at her the way a stalk suddenly seems
to snap at her hair or snag her overalls.

Rustling flags of Gold Queen
leaves soon sweep husky chatter
deep into the maze, and for all the ears
around her, she can’t hear them now.
Younger, she might have panicked
at the dead ends, the impulsive corner
turns, the back-tracking sameness
of paths that promise escape but lure her
down corridors of glume-laden
tassels waving on endless stalks.

But now, as she comes to a clearing,
and stares overhead at horse white clouds
galloping across a too-blue-for-October sky,
the wind shaking the leaves
like a thousand rattlers blows a kernel
of truth her way: that she can’t be lost,
not she who draws earth energy
through her feet to her heart to her lungs,
and releases it back to creation
with breath and thanks
as every Sibley woman before her has done.

She breaks off a cob, peels away the floss,
and tosses it free. It glints like a flame,
like a faerie on a fresh burst of wind —
flying eastward, towards exit, towards home.

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 84

Honeybees

Christie Collins

How could I not have grieved?
When their bodies, poisoned into a deep
& enduring sleep, drifted like dusty snowflakes
from the attic above — down, down
onto the ruddy linoleum floor
in the restroom of my therapist’s office.

When the capsules of their still bodies
were stepped on, crunched,
swept up, disposed of —

When it took a maintenance crew
hours to undo their nests,
the impressive sheets of comb
that had been so carefully composed
from earth, paper, bits of human trash,
a home forged of communal tenacity, instinct.

When the wealth of their honey,
that golden sea of their life’s work,
was drained from the combs, willy-nilly,
into several black trash bags —

When such a bustling city as it must
have been fell & fell silent.

I expected nothing of the afternoon,
no poem to unfold, no narrative to break
from my back like inkblotted wings.
But after seeing the last of their hive
swept up into a rusted dust pan,
I felt the truth of their absence.
I felt the early blistering of an ache & an elegy.

As the afternoon backbends into night,
I hear the memory of the honeybees buzzing,
rebuilding outside my window.
But, it can’t be. It can’t be. Their catacomb,
unyielding, Their bodies, only traceable
as tiny, magnanimous words.

Issue 9, 2017, pp 14-15

Nos for the Proper Modern Southern Girl

Heather Steadman

donuts
Dr. Pepper
ice cream
bread
if it tastes good, spit it out,
my grandma said

miniskirts
eyeliner
Spandex
flats
you can’t catch a decent man
looking like that

glasses
bare face
naked nails
frowns
or do you want the boys to think
you’ll always turn them down?

tattoos
piercings
hair of pink
or blue
if God had meant for those to happen
he’d’ve made them born on you

skipping Sundays
names in vain
rock & roll
& drinking wine
a Christian girl just trusts the Book
and not her fallen, wicked mind

smiling in public
speaking to strangers
laughing out loud
(just what kind of message are you trying to send, anyway?)

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 43

Easter Portrait, 1964 (Father to Son)

C. W. Emerson

I hold the snapshot
close to the lamp.

The print is faded, sepia-toned;
only hints of color remain.

You were three years old,
and dressed for Easter —

shorts and knee socks,
sport coat, cap.

You are handing me a crocus.
I bend to receive it.

I am your father, twenty-five,
and you, my eldest son.

Your grandmother’s garden
is glazed with light.

***

I look up
from my hospital bed,

hoping for a glimpse
of Carolina moon.

My night-sky rider,
sweet bantling boy:

how far have you come
for this vigil —

and what have I done
to deserve you so
near?

Issue 9, 2017, pg. 41

Aftermath

Patricia L. Hamilton

The silence after the storm ravages,

numbing the senses. No birds sing.

Instinct unites them in reverence

for the wreckage of limbs

where they might have been nesting,

now strewn about as carelessly

as a child’s pick-up sticks. 

No dogs bark. They cower under beds,

noses buried in their paws, still

cringing at the thunder’s treachery,

disavowing the testimony

of a clock’s soft ticking.

Only a black-and-white cat

picking its way through leafy debris

as it crosses the wet pavement
remains undeafened by the tumult’s end 

 

from Issue 7, pg. 41